Here’s Why Fermented Foods Are Healthy
“Fermentation via the action of good bacteria can trigger the synthesis of B vitamins and omega 3 fatty acids enriching the food product”
Fermentation as an essential kitchen technique has been prevalent since ancient times. Long ago, the art of preserving fruits and vegetables was discovered and today, fermented foods are back and popular, considering the sudden awareness regarding health. During fermentation, natural bacteria feed on the sugar and starches present in the food and produce lactic acid. This is essential for not just preservation of these foods, but also for easy digestibility.
History Of Fermentation
Fermentation of cereals, dairy, fruits, vegetables and meat was an important aspect of ancestral dietary practices. In spite of innovations such as chemical preservation techniques and refrigerators, fermentation as a process, is still very much active and this is because of the health benefits these foods have to offer.
Fermented Food Items Cereals
While making bread, yeast is often used to ferment the sugars present in the flour to form carbon dioxide that is responsible for raising the bread. idli batters are fermented overnight for four- five hours in order to form fluffy idlis.
Kimchi, sauerkraut, dill can be pickled via fermentation with lactic acid. The vegetables are often placed in brine which enables prevention of microbial damage and allows lactic acid formation.
Lactose in milk is broken down to lactic acid by lactobacilli bacteria during the preparation of curd. Buttermilk and lassi can further be made from the curd with the addition of spices, salt and sugar respectively.
With the lactobacilli strain and yeast. milk is fermented to look similar to buttermilk. It has a slight carbonated and alcoholic taste.
Addihon of vinegar/lime juice curdles milk breaking down the lactose and forming lactic acid.
This tea is prepared through the fermentation of sweetened black tea. Yeast and specific mould strains are used to ferment the sugar in the tea to carbon dioxide, acetic acid and some amount of alcohol giving it a tizzy appearance.
Soy sauce, miso, tempeh are fermented soybean products. The process helps in the breakdown of phytates/phytic acid by the addition of various moulds, along with high amounts of salt intended for fermentation.
Benefits Of Fermentation
Health Friendly Bacterial Probiotics
Probiotics are live microorganisms such as lactobacillus and bifidobacterium which are known to improve digestion and immunity. Fermented foods as pre-biotics that facilitate the growth of probiotics, have been researched to be one of the answers to healthy gut microbiota, which means that they promote the synthesis of good bacteria like above, inside the gastrointestinal tract. Thus, most benefits of consuming fermented foods are thanks to the good bacteria produced.
During the process of fermentation, the bacteria produce digestive enzymes that aid in the digestion process. Like in the case of curd, the lactose in the milk is broken down to simple sugars such as glucose and galactose making it easier for digestion. This can be especially significant for individuals who are lactose intolerant.
Removal of Anti-Nutrients
Oxalates and phytates are two abundant anti-nutrients found in leafy vegetables and grains/legumes. These often bind with minerals such as iron, zinc, copper etc. and reduce their absorption. Fermentation as a process often destroys these anti-nutrients ensuring efficient absorption of nutrients.
Fermentation via the action of good bacteria can trigger the synthesis of B vitamins and omega 3 fatty acids enriching the food product.
Promotes Mental Health
The good bacteria in fermented foods have also been researched to curb inflammation and oxidative stress to some extent and thereby help improve conditions such as anxiety and depression.
There are varied benefits of consuming fermented foods and fermented cereals and dairy contribute sufficiently to the gastrointestinal tract. Also, many studies have established a strong correlation between gut health and disease risk. Thus, the incorporation of either, curd, buttermilk, paneer, cheese or the use of probiotic supplements, is necessary on a daily basis to keep the gut healthy.
An important point to remember is that most fermented foods are also rich in salt and hence, sodium. Therefore, individuals with salt sensitivity and hypertension should be aware and consume these foods with caution.