The art of fermentation, particularly in food is deeply rooted in tradition. For thousands of years, countless cultures around the world have been fermenting foods as a preservation technique but also as a way to enhance the nutritional profile of ingredients. For example, in ancient India, it was and still is today, very common to enjoy lassi, a pre-dinner yogurt drink. This traditional practice is anchored on the principle of using sour milk as a probiotic delivery system to the body.
Furthermore, Bulgarians are known for their high consumption of fermented milk and kefir, and as are actually considered to be one of the healthiest cultures around the word. The Ukrainian diet is also rich in probiotics from fermented foods such as raw yogurt, sauerkraut, and buttermilk. Sadly, with the advances in technology and food preparation, these time-honoured traditional foods have been largely lost in today's society as pasteurized milk has replaced raw, pasteurized yogurt has replaced homemade, vinegar based pickles have replaced traditional fermented versions and above all, highly processed convenience foods are taking the lead. The good news is, there are more and more readily available lacto-fermented food products appearing on the market and what's more, you can easily make your own at home!
What are fermented foods?
Fermented foods are foods that have been through a process called lacto-fermentation, in which natural bacteria feed on the sugar and starch in the food creating lactic acid. This process preserves the food and creates naturally occurring beneficial enzymes, b-vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and various strains of probiotics. Common (lacto) fermented foods include: Kombucha - a tangy, effervescent tea—typically black or green. Saurkraut - made from just cabbage and salt and also high in fibre Kimchi - a spicy fermeted cabbage with Japanese origins Yogurt - we are all familiar with this one! Tempeh - made from naturally fermented soybeans Miso - made from fermented barley, rice or soybeans Kefir - a fermented milk drink cultured from kefir grains Milk kefir grains
Why should we eat fermented foods?
Aside from being delicious, fermented foods provide a whole host of health benefits:
Some fermented foods are great sources of essential nutrients such as vitamin K2, which can help prevent arterial plaque buildup and heart disease. For instance, cheese curd is an excellent source of both probiotics and vitamin K2. Just half an ounce (15 grams) can provide all the K2 you'll need . Fermented foods are also a potent producer of many B vitamins.
Optimizing your immune system
An estimated 70 percent of your immune system is actually located in your gut. Probiotics play a crucial role in the development and operation of the mucosal immune system in your digestive tract and aid in the production of antibodies to pathogens. A healthy gut is a major factor in the maintenance of optimal health, as a robust immune system is your top defence system against all disease.
Adding a small amount of fermented food to each meal will give you the biggest bang for your buck. Why? Because they can contain 100 times more probiotics than a supplement!
Natural variety of microflora
As long as you vary the fermented and cultured foods you eat, you'll get a much wider variety of beneficial bacteria than you could ever get from a supplement. What's more, these beneficial bacteria work as highly potent detoxifiers, capable of drawing out a wide range of toxins and heavy metals.
With a proper balance of healthy gut bacteria and enzymes, you will absorb more nutrients from the foods you are eating. It is recommended to pair your meals with some form of fermented food to assist digestion and increase essential nutrient absorption. You can introduce the power of fermentation into your life by trying our new culture starters from Culture's for Health. These easy to use, affordable starter kits include kefir, kombucha, sour cream, tempeh, yogurt, vegan yogurt(!) and even sourdough bread and are a great opportunity to start experimenting with your own homemade recipes!