Fermentation of Natural Foods: So Much More Than Kombucha
The fermentation of natural foods is an ancient technique used to create foods such as cheese, sauerkraut, and kimchi, and beverages, including kefir and kombucha. Other fermented drinks and dishes include yogurt, sourdough bread, natto, tempeh, miso, wine, and beer.
When David Rain Wallace, a naturalist and conservationist, suggested that ‘fermentation may have been a better invention than fire’, he was likely talking about the immense benefits provided by the process. Indeed, beyond the distinct benefit of fermentation in preserving foods, the process offers numerous health-promoting and life-prolonging advantages.
What Is Fermentation?
Human fermentation of natural foods dates back to 10,000 BCE, with globalization disseminating the technique to new palates and cultures. As a result, interest in fermented foods and beverages has exploded recently, with consumption surging by 149% within the past four years.
Fermentation occurs naturally when microorganisms such as yeast and bacteria in foods react with carbohydrates such as sugar and starch, converting them into acids or alcohols. These acids and alcohols are natural preservatives, giving the fermented food or beverage a distinctive tartly sour flavor and fizzy zing. Flavors can be spicy, fruity, bitter, or even bland. At the same time, fermentation produces beneficial bacteria, also known as probiotics.
What Are the Benefits of Fermentation?
With traditional, age-old products such as kimchi, kefir, and kombucha enjoying a revival, naturally fermented functional foods and beverages are an emerging trend in 2022. Here’s why:
- Improved digestion: Restoring a good population of friendly bacteria in the gut may prevent or alleviate specific digestive issues. Conditions that may benefit from a more balanced microbiome include irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diarrhea, constipation, bloating, and flatulence. Fermenting dairy makes it more digestible by rendering the sugars into simpler forms, making the fermented version suitable even for lactose-intolerant consumers.
- Nutrient availability: Foods are often more nutritious fermented than unfermented since fermentation makes nutrients more available. In addition, the process of fermentation of natural foods helps break down and destroy antinutrients that interfere with digestion and include lectins and phytates found in grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes.
- Increased immunity: These same beneficial bacteria play a significant role in enhancing immunity, helping to reduce the risk of infection and potentially speeding up recovery during illness.
- Heart health: Probiotics help lower blood pressure and total LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol, helping to boost and protect heart health.
- Better mood: Fermented foods contain multiple probiotic strains, including Bifidobacterium longum and Lactobacillus helveticus. These two strains have been found potentially to reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety.
- Weight management: Researchers have found that overweight consumers often have a poorer and less diverse microbiome. Introducing fermented foods and beverages to your diet may speed metabolism, assisting in weight loss, with research focusing on the Lactobacillus gasseri and Lactobacillus rhamnosus strains.
- Better skin health: Our skin, too, is an ecosystem impacted by an imbalance of beneficial gut bacteria. One can improve the complexion by consuming fermented food, also helping to address uncomfortable conditions such as rosacea, eczema, and acne.
Crucially, scientists have discovered a direct link between gut health and overall health. They refer to the digestive system as our ‘second brain’, with researchers suggesting that 70 to 80% of our immune system resides in our intestines. This emphasis highlights how essential a balanced microbiome and the fermentation of natural foods are to optimal functioning and well-being.
However, to help avoid potential bloating and gas when increasing consumption of probiotics, especially in fiber-rich products such as sauerkraut, start slowly and build up amounts consumed over time.
Advanced Biotech provides pure, natural EU-certified molecules for trending fermentation flavors such as garlic for pickles and kimchi, black or green tea for kombucha, fruits, and honey. Please contact us for more information.