Most people are aware that alcohol is a product of fermentation, but often their knowledge of the fermentation process stops there. What a great majority of people don’t realize is how many foods we eat every day that are fermented from other common foods, how the fermentation process occurs or how many health benefits eating fermented foods bring.
Commonly eaten foods such as sourdough breads, sour cream, buttermilk, soy sauce, miso, pickles, yogurt, cheese, alcohol, vinegar, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, kombucha, Worcestershire sauce, as well as black & red teas are all traditionally fermented (however, mass production and over processing likely take over the natural, healthy processes by which these foods were traditionally made).
The fermentation process, known as anaerobic fermentation, involves the breakdown and digestion of sugars in a food by bacteria, creating cellular energy and producing lactate as a byproduct in the absence of oxygen. It’s basically the method by which bacteria create their own food by digesting the sugars found in the various items being fermented. Through this process the bacteria grow and proliferate, creating a wild, living food. Your first thought about eating bacteria may be that it’s dangerous and unhealthy, but in the case of fermentation the opposite is true. In fact, you probably know these fermentation bacteria by another term, probiotic, and have no doubt heard of their health benefits.
Fermentation as a process of food preparation not only offers impressive food preservation, it also preserves many of the vitamins and minerals present in the food, and provides a plethora of flourishing probiotic enzymes and bacteria which aid digestion, reduce people’s susceptibility to allergens, help ease symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Colitis, beat out the more harmful bacteria in your gut, improving gut health, helping to boost your immune system, and might even help prevent colon cancer.
Try introducing more fermented foods into your diet and see how you feel. If you’re interested in seeing what delicious, fermented delicacies you can come up with yourself, take a look at wildfermentation.com, a great reference about home fermentation.
Good luck and happy eating.