Let’s Talk About Fermented Foods

This might sound like a strange topic to most of us living in western countries, but since it is a health issue, it will be covered in this blog. Before we explore the reasons why one might want to ferment foods, let’s begin with a definition of fermentation, which is the process of converting carbohydrates to alcohol or organic acids using microorganisms under anaerobic conditions.

Traditionally, the practice of fermentation was more widespread in some cultures. During the Roman era, sauerkraut was consumed for its health benefits. In ancient India, people often had lassi i.e. fermented milk before dinner. In Eastern Europe, Ukrainians and Bulgarians also consume foods such as fermented milk and raw yogurt. Fermentation of vegetables is also common in some Asian cultures.

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The process of vegetable fermentation is not actually as uncommon as you think in the western world, and it is making a comeback today! One reason why fermenting vegetables and other foods is such a good idea is because it allows the food to last longer – even up to a year in the fridge! This is because using the technique of lacto-fermentation; the salt water creates an oxygen-free, acidic environment that prevents bad bacteria and toxins from flourishing.

While preservation is a reason to ferment your vegetables, it is not the only benefit. Of more importance are the nutritional benefits. The process of fermenting results in the food having more prebiotics and probiotics. If these words sound familiar, they simply refer to the “good bacteria” that your guts need more of. Some fermented foods are also richer in certain vitamins and nutrients as compared to raw foods.

There are also a few other things that fermented foods can do for your system, and all of them are related to the prebiotics and probiotics we had mentioned in the previous paragraph. Firstly, consuming fermented foods may assist with optimising your immune system. Not many people know this, but the majority of one’s immune system is located in the gut. Fermented foods are also good for detoxification against toxins and heavy metals.

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[This blog post is for Julia, who inspired me to write it. Stay happy always!]

Another point that should be considered is the effects of gut health, of which fermented foods affect, on other areas of one’s life. Research has shown that gut health may affect one’s behaviour and gene expression, as well as being associated with the potential for having obesity, diabetes, autism, and a whole range of other learning-related disabilities. So do pay attention to your gut health!

So how do you ferment vegetables? Well, the whole process is beyond the scope of this short article, so you’ll have to do your own research. However, just briefly: it involves preparing the vegetables by slicing or grating, dipping them under pressure in brine or other suitable media for fermentation to occur at a suitable temperature, “burping” them daily, and finally moving them to the fridge for storage. If you follow a reliable and simple protocol, you should be able to do it fairly well, and without unwanted mould or yeast. All the best!

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Also published on Medium.


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