What are fermented foods?
Though the term “fermented” sounds vaguely distasteful, the results of this ancient preparation and preservation technique through a process of lacto-fermentation in which natural bacteria feed on the sugar and starch in the food creating lactic acid are actually quite delicious. This process preserves the food, and creates a wide array of beneficial enzymes including lactase, B vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids and various strains of probiotics. This process increases your overall health by promoting the growth of friendly intestinal bacteria which aids digestion and supports immune function, and other immune chemicals that fight off harmful bacteria and even cancer cells.
The methods for fermentation have been passed on through generations using locally available raw materials from plants and animals. People around the world produce fermented food and drink brimming with micro-organisms, either naturally or by adding a starter culture, such as kefir.
Cultures around the world have been eating fermented foods for years, from Sauerkraut in Germany to Kimichi in Korea and everywhere in between. Sadly, with the advances in technology and food preparation, these time-honoured traditional foods have been largely lost in our society.
Why eat fermented foods?
- Eating fermented foods and drinking fermented drinks like Kefir introduces beneficial bacteria into your digestive system and helps balance the bacteria in your digestive system. Probiotics have also been shown to help many problematic health conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, atopic dermatitis, diarrhoea, allergic rhinitis and even the common cold.
Absorb Food Better
- The proper balance of gut bacteria and enough digestive enzymes is of vital importance as it helps you absorb more of the nutrients in the foods you eat.
- Incorporating healthy foods into your diet can get expensive, however this is not the case with fermented foods. You can make your own kefir at home, and ferment many foods very inexpensively. Drinks like Kefir water can be made at home also costing only a few dollars per serving.
Preserves Foods Easily
- Homemade salsa only lasts a few days in the fridge- Fermented homemade salsa lasts months! The same goes for sauerkraut, beets and other garden foods. Lacto-fermentation allows you to store these foods for longer periods of time without losing the nutrients like you would with traditional canning.
Where Have All the Fermented Foods Gone?
Unfortunately, the amount of probiotics and enzymes available in the average diet has significantly declined over the last few decades as pasteurised milk has replaced raw, pasteurised yogurt has replaced homemade, vinegar based picked and sauerkraut has replaced traditional Lacto-fermented versions all in a bid to extend shelf life.
Instead of the nutrient rich foods full of enzymes and probiotics that our grandparents probably ate, the average diet today consists mainly of sugar laden, lab created dead foods.
How to Incorporate Fermented Foods into Your Diet
Many of your favourite foods and drinks are probably fermented such as bread, cheese, wine, beer, meat, pickles, sauerkraut, salami, miso, tempeh, soy sauce, vinegar, yoghurt and kefir. It’s easy to get started with fermentation and a lot and easier to prepare than you might think. You just need some starter cultures such as Kefir sachets, mason jars, and you’re good to go.
Click here for easy instructions on how to make your own Kefir at home.
Don’t forget The Medical Sanctuary sells Kefir starter cultures!