Food fermentation is a metabolic process, whereby microorganisms such as bacteria and yeast feed on organic compounds – mainly carbohydrates, sugars and starch, converting them to acids or alcohol. The alcohol or acids preserve the food and extends its shelf-life. In addition to this, the fermentation of food can provide a number of health benefits to people who eat the preserved food.
Why add fermented food to your diet?
Firstly, chocolate can be considered a fermented food! Fermentation changes the flavor of food and is responsible for the characteristic flavors of both chocolate and vanilla. Fermented food is also budget friendly. Fermenting food at home is inexpensive as most foods will only require sea salt and whey for the process. Moreover, lacto-fermentation, unlike canning not only preserves food but also preserves the nutrients inside them. Also, by adding fermented food to your diet, you may reduce the amount of supplements you need as well the trips to your doctor. This is because fermented foods supply your body with “good bacteria” (probiotics) that boost your immune-system and can prevent against auto-immune diseases.
Probiotics have further been shown to aid digestion and improve bowel movement. There are also increased levels of vitamins, especially B vitamins, in food that has been fermented. Fermentation can also break down the natural or synthetic compounds that affect the absorption of nutrients. Minerals such as iron and zinc are bound together by phytic acid, which is found in legumes. When legumes such as miso and tempeh are fermented, the phytic acid is broken down allowing the minerals inside the legumes to be available for absorption. Furthermore, fermented food is now becoming a common dietary recommendation for people with diabetes. The carbohydrates in lactic acid-fermented foods, have been shown to help improve pancreatic function.
Some of the healthiest fermented foods that are recommended, include: