In a nutshell…
Eating foods that have gone through the lacto-fermentation process is very beneficial to your health.
What is fermentation?
Fermented foods have been through a process called lacto-fermentation. This is where natural bacteria feed on the starch and sugar in the food, which creates lactic acid. This process kills harmful bacteria and allows good bacteria to flourish. Before refrigeration, pasteurization, and food transportation, fermentation was one of the best means of food preservation.
What is the difference between canning and fermenting?
Let’s use pickles to explain canning vs. fermenting. To preserve a cucumber, you can add vinegar to the jar and let them sit in the refrigerator for quick pickles. Or you can add hot vinegar and spices to the jar and boil them in a hot water bath for canned pickles. These two methods produce the kinds of pickles that you are probably used to. The process of canning pickles sterilizes the cucumbers so there are no good or bad bacteria left.
Another way to preserve a cucumber is to pour a salt brine into the jar and let them sit at room temperature for several days to months. This is how you ferment cucumbers. This process creates an environment where good bacteria can survive and thrive. The good bacteria then create an environment where bad bacteria cannot survive.
Most of the pickles and sauerkraut you buy at the grocery store are pickled by adding vinegar. They’ve not gone through the fermentation process. You can find fermented pickles and sauerkraut at health food stores.
Why is eating fermented food beneficial to my health?
- Addition of microbes to your gut: fermented foods have live good bacteria that will help maintain healthy pH levels in your system.
- Increased vitamin intake: good bacteria help increase the vitamin level in foods, especially B vitamins.
- Better digestibility: when fermented, the lactose in milk or the cellulose in plants is broken down into forms that are easier to digest.
- Elimination of anti-nutrients: anti-nutrients interfere with the absorption of nutrients. Phytic acid, for example, which is found in legumes and seeds, binds minerals such as iron and zinc, reducing their absorption when eaten. But phytic acid can be broken down during fermentation, so the minerals become available. Fermented Foods
So, what does eating fermented foods mean for your health? It means improved bowel health, protection against disease, and enhanced immune function.
What fermented foods can I incorporate into my diet?
You can ferment food on your own, or buy it. Most health food stores have a variety of fermented food for sale and that’s usually what I do—buy it. But I’m looking forward to mastering the process of fermenting too. Because I hear it’s actually not that hard.
Some fermented foods you can buy include:
Some recipes that I like that include fermented food include:
Tip: switch out canned pickles and sauerkraut for naturally fermented pickles and sauerkraut. Make your own yogurt and kefir. And if you haven’t already, introduce kimchi and miso into your diet.
Do you already eat fermented foods? Which are your favorites? Have you made your own pickles, sauerkraut, or kimchi through fermentation?
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