The fermented food guide
Fermented foods have been a part of the human diet for almost as long as we’ve been around. Fermentation is a process whereby microorganisms and their enzymes are used to convert the starches and sugars found in food into lactic acid by lactic acid producing bacteria.
The bacteria found in fermented products have antimicrobial properties, meaning they act as a natural preservative and inhibit putrefying bacteria. Therefore, the fermentation process improves the shelf life and safety of food as well as its digestibility and nutritional value.
Most probiotic rich fermented foods are made from milk producing yoghurt, kefir and other forms of soured milk beverages and products. However, the increase in lactose intolerance has meant that a growing number of consumers are turning to other food sources for probiotics. Non-dairy, fermented foods include products such as vegetables, beans, fruit, meat, fish and seafood.
Consumption of lactic acid bacteria can:
- Improve intestinal tract health
- Enhance the immune system
- Synthesize and enhance the bioavailability of nutrients
- Alleviate and reduce the symptoms of lactose intolerance
- Reduce the risk of certain type of cancers such as colon cancer
- Improve gut infections, diarrhoea or constipation, peptic ulcers and leaky gut
Top nine fermented foods
Workshops on the fermentation of food and drink are popping up everywhere. However, if you’re not ready to make your own, try and choose products that are made from whole ingredients, without added sugar.
1. Yoghurt: If you can, choose full fat, pastured yoghurt made from dairy (cows, sheep, goat and buffalo) without milk solids, sugar and additives. Coconut yoghurt is a popular alternative for vegans, vegetarians and those suffering from lactose intolerance.
2. Kefir: A fermented milk drink made from “kefir” grains. Kefir coconut water and plain kefir water is also available for those who don’t consume dairy.
3. Kombucha: A symbiotic culture of yeast and other microorganisms. The culture is placed in black or green tea with sugar. The culture feeds on the sugar and turns the tea into a healthy fermented drink.
4. Pickled vegetables and fruit: Most fruit and vegetables can be fermented, including carrots, turnips, capers, beans, apples, onions and peppers. Gherkins, sauerkraut, kimchi, relish, chutney, preserved lemons, pickled eggs, daikon, olives and umeboshi plums are other the most common fermented vegetables & fruit.
5. Kvass: A fermented Russian beverage commonly made from black or regular rye bread and may be found flavoured with spices and raisins. Beet kvass is a fermented drink made from beetroot.
6. Pickled meats and fish: Salt-cured meats and pickled fish such as herring are found in many delis.
7. Miso paste: is created by fermenting soybean, buckwheat, barley or brown rice with a fungus called koji. It is high in protein and rich in vitamins, minerals and good culture. Choose organic varieties if available.
8. Tempeh: is made by culturing and fermenting soybeans to form a loaf like shape. Traditionally found in Indonesia, it has more cultures than tofu and is easier to digest. Choose organic varieties if available.
9. Natto: is a traditional Japanese fermented whole soybean. It not only offers the health benefits of good cultures it is one of the richest sources of K2, which is beneficial for musculoskeletal health.
Incorporate some (or all if you can!) into your diet for good gut health and better digestion.
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