With kombucha and apple cider vinegar gaining popularity over the past few years in the health sphere, the spotlight has been shone on fermentation. However, fermented foods have been part of our diets for centuries, and were initially produced as a way to preserve foods, improve flavour and eliminate food toxins. Today, more people are turning to these foods for their health benefits, and their subsequent sustainability benefits.
What exactly is Fermentation?
Fermentation is a metabolic process in which microorganisms create a desirable change in foods and beverages, like increasing flavour or preserving foods. It occurs in the absence of oxygen and in the presence of beneficial microorganisms, like yeasts, molds and bacteria, that get their energy through fermentation. Some of your favourite foods are fermented! Like kombucha, kimchi, yogurt, sourdough bread, apple cider vinegar and even wine and beer.
Our fave fermented foods:
Kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, miso and pickles.
What are the Benefits of Fermentation?
It’s healthy for you
People have been processing food through various fermentation methods for thousands of years. However, in the 19th and 20th centuries, our diets changed radically; as we moved from farms to cities, we also moved away from fresh produce. Fermentation was one such way to combat this and keep food nutritious for longer.
Fermented foods are rich in probiotics, those helpful bugs that maintain a healthy gut so it can do its job of extracting nutrients from food. Probiotics also aid the immune system because the gut produces antibiotic, antitumor and antiviral substances, and pathogens don’t do well in the acidic environment fermented foods create.
Fermentation provides enzymes necessary for digestion and breaking down food. This is super important because we’re born with a finite number of enzymes, which decrease with age.
Finally, fermentation can increase the vitamins and minerals in food and make them easier to absorb, like vitamins B and C.
It’s also surprisingly sustainable!
While canning requires a lot of energy, many fermented foods require no cooking or heat at all. Further, fermentation reduces the need for fridges and freezers, being able to be stored on a shelf and it prevents food waste, because instead of throwing food away when it’s less-than-perfect, for example, vegetables, you can simply chop them, salt them, pack them in a jar and leave for a few weeks – or longer!
Whether you eat or drink fermented goods for the health benefits they bring, or for the tang and zest they add to your meals, their health benefits are plentiful and the process is good for the environment.