Why we should eat fermented food

Why we should eat fermented food

Why should we eat fermented food? When you first hear about fermented food, either someone offers you some or you see a workshop offering to teach you how to make fermented foods, you may be asking yourself, what is so special about fermented foods? Some people swear by it, while others think sauerkraut stinks!

As fermented food makes a comeback, I think it is a good idea to speak about what fermented is and what it is not. Since I started hosting fermentation workshops and teaching on courses about 6 years ago, one of the questions that most of my students have is centered around the differences between canning, fermenting, and pickling. All these methods are ways to preserve produce, and they are all delicious, but they can be very different from each other.

Different preserving methods: canning, pickling, and fermenting

Canning: These are foods that are placed in a jar and they are heated in order to preserve the food for a long time. You can use this method for vegetables but it isn't’ the only way to use it. Many other foods can be canned.

Pickling: Also known as brining is the process of preserving food by anaerobic fermentation in brine (a solution of salt in water) to produce lactic acid, or marinating and storing it in an acid solution, usually vinegar (acetic acid). This second way is also known as quick pickling, where vinegar is added.

Fermenting: Also known as Lacto-fermented foods. These are foods that have undergone a process of fermentation by lactic acid-producing bacteria, thus inducing the acidification of vegetables. The most famous example is sauerkraut (fermented cabbage that is simply made with salt and a bit of patience). As the vegetable ferments, all the nutritional benefits that we can acquire from eating these vegetables are absorbed better in our digestive system. This way, our immune system benefits much more, which is why ferments are my favorite!

Why we should include fermented foods in our diets

Food fermentation emerged thousands of years ago as a method of preserving certain foods for times of scarcity. We now know that during fermentation there is a considerable increase in the nutrients in the food. Another benefit is that this helps the growth of beneficial bacteria in our gut flora.

Almost 2 kilos of bacteria live in our bodies, and billions of these microorganisms are found in our intestinal flora. These types of bacteria are vital and very important as they provide our bodies with many benefits. Our intestinal “microflora” help the gut to digest food, convert food into energy, destroy toxins, produce certain vitamins or amino acids, and protect the body against different pathogens.

Unfortunately, the bacteria in our digestive system are not in perfect balance all the time. Whilst our body naturally seeks total health for us, the foods we eat on a regular basis have a great impact on the microorganisms that inhabit our intestines.

Today, probiotics are popular and fermented foods are an excellent source of these, as probiotics are active and natural. In addition, fermented foods are full of enzymes, vitamins, and minerals. And the vitamins in vegetables become more bioavailable when these are fermented.

Therefore, the maintenance of a balance of bacteria in our intestinal flora is key to maintaining good health and a good immune system. Probiotics contain the kind of healthy bacteria similar to those we have in our bodies. By consuming them we help diversify our intestinal flora and thus improve our digestion and overall health.

I hope you know more about why we should eat fermented food, especially why we should include vegetables in our diets. You can start by trying my sauerkraut recipe and slowly adding it as a condiment or side dish.

Do you have more questions regarding fermented foods? 

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