When you hear the word fermented, do you automatically think of something that has gone past its best before date?
Yep, I know it sounds a little strange, but fermentation can actually be good for us!
Let me explain what fermented foods are and WHY they have become such a big talking point.
What are fermented foods?
Fermentation describes the process where natural sugars and carbohydrates are converted into lactic acid. Because the natural sugars turn to acid in the fermenting process, the sugar content of the food is reduced. The fermenting stage, also sometimes called culturing, is when microorganisms actually begin to break the foods down. That’s when the flavour begins to change.
The sour or tangy taste you might recognise in fermented foods comes from the lactic acid, which produces digestive enzymes and ‘good’ bacteria. The digestive enzymes in these foods can actually help the gut to better absorb the nutrients in your food. That’s why I named them one of the five superfoods to start eating!
How do fermented foods affect the body?
Fermented foods contain all kinds of healthy bacteria, also known as probiotics. This good bacteria can help to keep a balance in your gut, which can lead to more efficient digestion, along with a bunch of other potential health benefits! Probiotics may help to stabilise blood sugar levels, lead to better immune function, help to reduce bloating, improve the health of your skin and they may help boost the release of serotonin.
Your gut is actually the largest part of your immune system, so when it works to the best of its ability, we tend to feel better. Makes sense, right?
Examples of fermented foods
While all of these foods are classified as fermented, most have different strains of probiotics. It’s a good idea to mix it up a little so you can enjoy the benefits of these multiple strains. Some of these fermented foods you might already be familiar with, or you might be eating already!
Miso: Did you know miso is a fermented paste? It’s made from fermented soybeans and grains AND it is full of essential minerals like potassium. Miso is great as a soup or added to stir-fry!
Sauerkraut: Possibly the easiest fermented food to make, sauerkraut is made from finely sliced cabbage which has been fermented. It is often eaten with cooked meats and cheese.
Kombucha: Made from fermented tea, kombucha has a lot of different ‘good’ bacteria in one drink! Just read the label before you drink it. The fermenting process can sometimes produce very small amounts of alcohol, but some bottles may have a higher alcoholic percentage than others. Some also contain added sugars, so skip these ones to enjoy more health benefits.
Tempeh: Made from fermented soybeans, tempeh is a complete protein, which makes it a good meat substitute for vegetarians.
Kimchi: Similar to sauerkraut, but with a little more spice, kimchi is made of fermented cabbage.
Kefir: A yeast fermented milk product, kefir is often called a drinkable yoghurt! It’s a good source of protein, calcium and vitamin D, as well as being packed with probiotics. Because it is made from yeast, avoid this one if you are sensitive to yeast products.
Yoghurt: A tub of yoghurt that says ‘contains live and active cultures’ on the side of it can also be good for your gut! These varieties are guaranteed to have 100 million probiotic cultures per gram when manufactured, which is almost as much as some probiotic supplements.
Aside from being really versatile and tasty, fermented foods can be helpful for the health of your gut. If you want to improve immune function and help your digestion, you could try adding some fermented foods to your diet.
Wherever you are in the world, have a lovely day ❤