What Is Food Fermentation?

Fermentation is a natural process through which microorganisms like yeast and bacteria convert carbs — such as starch and sugar — into alcohol or acids. The alcohol or acids act as a natural preservative and give fermented foods a distinct zest and tartness. Fermentation also promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria, known as probiotics. Probiotics have been shown to improve immune function as well as digestive and heart health.

 

Improves Digestive Health

The probiotics produced during fermentation can help restore the balance of friendly bacteria in your gut and may alleviate some digestive problems.  Evidence suggests that probiotics can reduce uncomfortable symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a common digestive disorder.

One 6-week study in 274 adults with IBS found that consuming 4.4 ounces (125 grams) of yogurt-like fermented milk daily improved IBS symptoms, including bloating and stool frequency.

What’s more, fermented foods may also lessen the severity of diarrhea, bloating, gas, and constipation.  For these reasons, adding fermented foods to your diet may be useful if you regularly experience gut issues.

Boosts Your Immune System

The bacteria that live in your gut have a significant impact on your immune system. Due to their high probiotic content, fermented foods can give your immune system a boost and reduce your risk of infections like the common cold. Consuming probiotic-rich foods may also help you recover faster when you’re sick.

Additionally, many fermented foods are rich in vitamin C, iron, and zinc — all of which are proven to contribute to a stronger immune system.

Makes Food Easier to Digest

Fermentation helps break down nutrients in food, making them easier to digest than their unfermented counterparts.

For example, lactose — the natural sugar in milk — is broken down during fermentation into simpler sugars — glucose and galactose. As a result, those with lactose intolerance are generally fine eating fermented dairy like kefir and yogurt .Plus, fermentation helps break down and destroy antinutrients — such as phytates and lectins — which are compounds found in seeds, nuts, grains, and legumes that interfere with the nutrient absorption .

Therefore, consuming fermented beans or legumes like tempeh increases the absorption of beneficial nutrients, making them more nutritious than unfermented alternatives .

  • Miso
  • Kimchi
  • Salami
  • Yogurt
  • Sourdough bread
  • Beer
  • Wine
  • Olives

 

Lecture to the Art of Fermentaion with Harvard Link

How to Ferment Vegetables