Fermented foods sound kind of gross, right? Foods full of bacteria after being left to ferment for days, weeks, or even months… It doesn’t sound very appetizing. But fermented foods are one of the newest health food fads – and for a good reason. You want to know why? Well, we’ve got all the answers to your questions about fermentation right here.
Where did fermentation come from?
Refrigeration is a relatively new concept in the course of history. Back before there were refrigerators, ice boxes, or other ways of saving perishable food, there was fermentation. Fermenting foods has existed across many different cultures as a natural way of preserving foods. It was especially helpful for preserving fruits and vegetables collected during harvest (in the warmer months) so they could be eaten during the winter, when it was harder to grow fruits and vegetables.
How does fermentation work?
The process of fermentation basically involves leaving a food to sit for a long period of time. Often the food is submerged in a liquid, like water, vinegar, or a combination of multiple liquids, and is left to “steep”. During this process, various microorganisms (such as bacteria or yeast - depending on the kind of food being fermented) convert the starches, sugars, or other organic compounds, into alcohol or acids. For example, in lactofermentation, bacteria eat up the sugars and starches in fruits and vegetables and turn them into lactic acid. Lactic acid is a natural preservative, and has a strong, somewhat sour taste. The process also creates lots of vitamins, enzymes, probiotics, and other good-for-you byproducts!
Is it the same as pickling?
Nope! Pickled items are preserved in vinegar, which is in itself a product of fermentation, but the food is not actually fermented. You don’t get the same health benefits from pickled foods!
What makes fermented foods special?
One big reason: Probiotics. Like we mentioned earlier, the process of fermentation creates lots of probiotic bacteria. There’s a reason that probiotics have been in the spotlight so often recently: they’re really good for you. Your digestive system is full of good bacteria that helps you break down nutrients and absorb them into your system. Probiotics are good bacteria that can add to and supplement the bacteria already living in your gut. By consuming probiotics, you increase your body’s ability to digest food, absorb nutrients, and even fight infection, since probiotics help boost your immune system. Many people swear by the ability of probiotics to fight disease and even improve your mood.
How do I incorporate fermented food into my diet?
You’ll be surprised just how many fermented foods are out there! With a huge selection of fermented foods full of probiotics and other healthy substances, you can find almost anything to fit your lifestyle. Here’s just a few examples of the kinds of fermented foods you’ll find:
- Kombucha, the popular fermented tea drink
- Kefir, a fermented yogurt drink
- Sauerkraut, a German kind of pickled cabbage
- Kimchi, a Korean kind of pickled cabbage (sauerkraut’s spicy cousin!)
- Tempeh, made from soybeans, is protein-rich and vegetarian
And the list goes on!
If you’re really serious about eating more fermented foods, you can make your own at home for cheap. This is one healthy food trend that we hope stays around for a long time. And for more tips, articles, and wellness questions answered, make sure you sign up for our email list!