Long before refrigeration, commercial preservatives and pasteurised canned food, the most common way to prevent food from spoiling was by fermenting. The earliest history of fermentation dates back as far as 6000 B.C. Adapted through generations of culture and tradition, this simple method has kept human beings and cultures alive.
What does fermenting or culturing mean?
The terms fermenting and culturing can be used interchangeably.
Fermentation is a method of pre-digestion. It takes place when there are probiotics/beneficial bacteria (lactobacillus or biffidus strains) naturally present or even a yeast strain, which breaks down the starches and sugars in the food. As these bacteria divide, the process forms lactic acid which is described as lacto-fermentation. This lactic acid stops the growth of bad bacteria and is also responsible for giving fermented foods that ‘tangy’ or ‘acidic’ taste. As long as the foods are kept under the liquid brine and stored in a cool, dark place, the product will last for months and even up to years.
Fermentation not only preserves, it also improves nutrition and adds flavour. The many examples include - cheese, bread, cured meats, chocolate, coffee, wine, vinegar, beer, spirits, certain teas, fish sauce, soy sauce, mustard, olives and traditionally ketchup. However nowadays with the introduction of commercial food production, true ferments are less consumed. Ferments are not made with the same techniques as they would have been traditionally. Most store-bought fermented foods like sauerkraut or pickles are preserved in vinegar and also pasteurised. This robs the food of nutrients and minerals, which on the contrary would have been increased through lacto-fermentation.
The benefits of fermented foods?
- Fermentation increases the digestibility of the foods by neutralising plant toxins.
- Fermentation can render previously inedible or dangerous foods edible and also makes them more nutritious.
- It creates B Vitamins and K2.
- Increases the overall vitamin and mineral levels.
- Boosts immunity.
- Aids to curb carbohydrate and sugar cravings.
- Incredibly rich in beneficial bacteria and it encourages the growth of good bacteria in the intestinal tract.
- Fights candida, bad pathogens and harmful bacteria.
- Helps remove toxins from the body.
- Improves bowel health.
- Aids digestion so you can absorb food better.
- A serving of fermented food can contain trillions of probiotics, which is the equivalent to an entire jar of expensive probiotic capsules.
Adding fermented foods to your diet is incredibly easy and affordable if you begin to make it yourself!