What Are Fermented Foods?

Delicious fermented foods to promote gut health including kimchi and sauerkraut

Defined as the chemical breakdown of a substance by bacteria or yeasts, fermentation has been used as a way of preserving food for thousands of years. The earliest record dates back to 6000 BC (humans hadn’t even invented the wheel by this time!).

Endless Possibilities

Many of our favourite foods come from fermentation processes, including cheese, yoghurt, bread and beer. However, many more fermented foods exist, such as kefir, kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut and tempeh.

Variety is the Spice of Life

As fermenting is a specific process that can be applied to countless food items, the taste will always be different. Usually, the flavour of the food is enhanced or will become naturally tangier. Fermented foods will continue to ferment over time, changing the flavour, so need to be stored in the fridge to slow the process down. Fizzing jars are a by-product of the live bacteria and continuing fermentation process.

Good Things Come to Those Who Ferment

Fermented foods offer many benefits, not only to our health and wellbeing, but also for the planet. Fermented foods help save energy because they do not require the traditional heating method of cooking; the process of fermentation requires live bacteria and yeasts to break down foods instead.

Fermenting also saves on food waste as it prolongs the longevity of food. In many cultures, summer vegetables are fermented and stored ready to be eaten during the less abundant winter months.

In addition, the fermenting process can offer many potential health benefits. Fermented foods can offer probiotic benefits due to the live bacteria within them and some studies have shown they have the ability to improve digestion, boost the immune system and even increase nutrient availability in foods.

“Fermented foods are rich in probiotic bacteria so by consuming fermented foods you are adding beneficial bacteria and enzymes…increasing the health of your gut microbiome … and enhancing the immune system.”
(BBC Good Food, The Health Benefits of Fermentation)

Slow and Steady

For those new to eating fermented foods, starting with small portions is a good idea as many of us are not used to the live-bacteria that are abundant in them. 

Resources to find out more:

The Health Benefits of Fermentation, BBC Good Food (https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/health-benefits-offermenting Web)

The Art of Fermentation, Sandor Ellix Katz (Book)

Fermented Foods can add Depth to Your Diet, Harvard Medical School  (https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/fermented-foods-can-add-depth-to-your-diet Web)

Health-Promoting Components in Fermented Foods: An Up-to-Date Systematic Review, Melini. F., Melini.V, Luziatelli. F, Ficca. A.G, Ruzzi, G.(https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6567126/ Web)