In recent years fermented food have become trendy and some regard them as superfoods. Fermented foods are not simply the latest craze, nor a fad.  They have been around for centuries and fermenting was historically used as a way of preserving food.  The fermentation process involves yeast or bacteria using sugars without the presence of oxygen.

One of the most well known products of fermentation is alcohol! (we aren’t saying that this is a superfood…)

So, why are fermented foods so good? And how can they benefit health?

The process of fermentation makes the food itself more digestible and allows the nutrients present to be more available. In addition to this they are a rich source of probiotics.  These probiotics are well known to be supportive of gut health and have also demonstrated the ability to support the immune system, combat inflammation and research has also shown they can play a role in the formation of neurotransmitters that are important for mood and motivation.

Interestingly, recent studies have shown a direct link between eating fermented foods and a reduction in social anxieties1.  This shows a clear link between food, good gut health and mental health.

Fermented foods have been used therapeutically for many, many years. The use of sauerkraut for gut issues goes back to the Romans.  The practice of using fermented foods in this way still occurs in eastern cultures where kimchi, kombucha, natto and douche are all revered for their health benefits.

There is a vast array of fermented foods to choose from, here is the lowdown on some top fermented foods:

Kefir

Kefir is produced by fermenting milk with specific grains of beneficial bacteria and yeast. It has a consistency of a pouring yoghurt. It has a naturally tingly and slightly tangy taste – due to the presence of the bacteria.  It has been shown to support the gut and some research shows it can help to keep the gut environment healthy and also the gut lining 2.  Non-dairy, water kefir are available and come in a variety of flavours including apple, grapefruit, blackcurrant and coconut.  The bacteria in the water kefir do differ to that in the dairy kefir but still have beneficial effects.

Kombucha

This is a fermented, slightly effervescent drink made from black or green tea. It has a tangy taste to it and has been shown to not only support the good bacteria in the gut but also to ward off unwanted pathogenic bacteria 3.

Sauerkraut

This is one of the most well known fermented foods and is made from finely cut cabbage which is fermented using several types of bacteria. It has a naturally sour taste which comes from the presence of the lactic acid bacteria.  Ensure your sauerkraut is raw as heat kills of hose beneficial bacteria.

Kimchi

This is a Korean dish, similar to sauerkraut, made from fermenting and salting vegetables such as cabbage and the Korean radish. It has many seasonings and flavours such as chilli, ginger and garlic which makes it taste distinctly different to sauerkraut.  It has many health benefits and research indicates it can help to lower cholesterol, support brain health, prevent constipation, and may even have an anti-obesity effect4.

Tempeh

This fermented dish is eaten regularly in Indonesia and is made from soybeans. Not only is it rich in the beneficial bacteria it is also a good source of fibre, protein, calcium, magnesium and iron. It can be versatile and make a great meat replacement if you are vegetarian or vegan.  Tempeh is rich in soy isoflavones which may be of use for female hormone balance, bone health and cardiovascular health.

Miso

This paste, with its origins in Japan, can be used to add to sauces or to make a miso soup. It is traditionally made by fermenting soybeans with a fungi called aspergillis oryzae. Some vegetables or grains may also be added.  It has a salty flavour and can sometimes be sour or sweet – depending on the type of miso.

 

REFS

  1. 1. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/06/150609092803.htm
  2. Carasi, P., Racedo, S. M., Jacquot, C., Romanin, D. E., Serradell, M. A., & Urdaci, M. C. (2015). Impact of kefir derived Lactobacillus kefiri on the mucosal immune response and gut microbiota. Journal of immunology research, 2015.
  3. Cetojevic-Simin, D. D., Bogdanovic, G. M., Cvetkovic, D. D., & Velicanski, A. S. (2008). Antiproliferative and antimicrobial activity of traditional Kombucha and Satureja montana L. Kombucha. J BUON, 13(3), 395-401.
  4. Park, K. Y., Jeong, J. K., Lee, Y. E., & Daily III, J. W. (2014). Health benefits of kimchi (Korean fermented vegetables) as a probiotic food. Journal of medicinal food, 17(1), 6-20.