Why eat fermented foods?
Fermentation is an ancient form of food processing that is enjoying new popularity – in restaurants and with nutrition experts.
The key health benefit of fermented foods is their contribution to gut health: the balance of bacterial colonies in the gut collectively called the microbiome, Choice advises. Obvious examples of fermented food are bread, wine and beer, but some other options are kimchi and sauerkraut, cheese, yoghurt and vinegar. Lesser-known players in the fermentation game are miso, tempeh, chocolate and vanilla; kombucha tea and kefir drinks are also gaining recognition.
How it works
Fermentation is a complex process that can preserve foods and drinks in longer lasting forms and enhance their flavours. Lactobacilli bacteria turn sugars and starch into lactic acid which helps preserve meats like salami, vegetables such as dill pickles and dairy products like cheeses. In soy bean products the fermentation process breaks down phytic acid, increasing the level of nutrients. It can sometimes involve a chain reaction: for example, yeast converts sugars into alcohol and acetobacter bacteria turn alcohol into acetic acid (when wine turns to vinegar).
Benefits of fermentation
- preserves food
- adds ‘good’ bacteria to the gut
- increases micronutrient levels available in food
- makes food more easily digestible
- improves flavour
- eliminates anti-nutrients that interfere with digestion