We’ve all heard about fermented food but what is it, why is it good for us and should it be something to prioritize? Let’s answer all of those questions!
Fermentation is a process where healthy microbes are added to a food ingredient to transform it into a new food. We do this for reasons of food preservation, enhanced nutrient absorption or digestibility or simply taste! Some of the ones you may have heard of and maybe you already eat or drink include:
- Yogurt and kefir
- Kombucha tea, beer & wine
- Sourdough bread
- Injera, dosa (Ethiopian, South Indian fermented breads)
- Tempeh and miso (fermented soy cakes or paste)
- Kimchi (spicy Korean cabbage or other fermented veggies)
- Pickles (fermented, not just vinegar pickles)
- Apple cider vinegar
These healthy microbes, like yeast or bacteria, can include Saccharomyces, used in breads, beer and wine or Lactobacillus Acidophilus, which is often used in yogurt or kefir, or Acetobacter which is used in apple cider vinegar. They are called probiotics and when they reach our large intestine, they can convey numerous health benefits, like immune support by fighting off unhealthy pathogens. Some of these bacteria help us digest our food and even produce nutrients for us like short chain fatty acids and some vitamins. We are continually learning how else we may benefit from these bacteria, like studies showing asthma reduction in kimchi eaters, anxiety reduction and lower risk for obesity and cardiovascular disease with healthy microbiomes. The process of fermentation can also make a food more digestible to us like yogurt for those with lactose intolerance or sourdough for those with gluten sensitivity.
But the key to keeping your microbiome (the balance of bacteria in your body) well-stocked with good microbes in your gut is to feed them well and that should include prebiotics. These come from fibrous foods like legumes, vegetables and whole grains and they provide good food to the microbes. Research shows that diets high in ultra-processed or fast foods can deplete the microbiome.
For more information about fermented foods, probiotics and health, check out: