A major comeback from the ancient times – Yes! The concept of Fermentation has made its way back through, amidst all the fad diets that are being experimented every now and then. While the healthcare industry is now strongly trying to aware us about our health, lots of “serial-dieters” are now focussing on a permanent lifestyle change rather than swapping from one method to another. And fermentation might just be that lifestyle you are looking for.
With many cultures fermenting their food since a very long time, we also have been eating fermented foods without realising it all along. Salami, cheese, wine, beer and yogurt are few examples.
Fermentation-What is it?
Fermentation is a process of using microorganisms like bacteria or yeast, to break down an energy-rich compound, such as breaking carbohydrates to carbon dioxide and alcohol or organic acids, under anaerobic conditions.
This is the process which uses basic tools and extracts nutritional value from the food we eat. It not only boosts food’s shelf life but also provides a dose of healthy probiotics and live organisms, which is crucial for digestion. Fermentation has proved to be helpful in preventing diseases like cancer, arthritis, liver disease, obesity and much more. This process produces lactic acid which acts as a preservative; avoids spoilage and growth of harmful bacteria.
Benefits of fermented foods are:
There are lots of perks when it comes to the fermentation of food, ranging from our physical health to our mental health. To give you a clue about what fermented food does to help, let’s discuss the benefits:
- Better digestion:
With the presence of proper gut bacteria and enough digestive enzymes, which pre-digests the food, makes it easier to absorb nutrients from food more effectively. Absorbing live nutrients from food is much more beneficial than consuming doses of vitamins and other supplements. Fermented foods also benefits people with lactose intolerance as the bacteria present in fermented dairy products, convert the milk sugar into digestible lactic acid.
Some fermented foods have claimed to possess anti-cancer properties. Cancer is basically caused by the activation of abnormal genes. The culture of probiotic fermented foods seems to reduce the generation of carcinogens. They produce compounds which hinders the growth of tumor cells. Some studies in Sweden and Netherlands have verified that fermented milk products helps in preventing bladder cancer. Intake of Kimchi, a fermented food, helps in breaking down a cancer-causing food preservative known as sodium nitrate.
- Controls obesity:
These superfoods keeps in check the level and balance of microbiome in our gut, which is responsible for the regulation of our immune system, metabolism, produces vital vitamins and minerals and helps in maintaining a healthy weight. Increased levels of insulin are released steadily in our body, breaking down the fat and help to curb the sugar cravings.
- Detoxification :
With the lifestyle and environment we have right now, it is hard to detect and avoid the number of toxins and contaminants that enters our body. These toxins make their way through our body via food, water or air. It is important for these toxins to release. Fermented foods play the role of detoxifying your liver from toxins like mercury and lead, through excretions, cleansing our body throughout.
- Enhancing immunity :
A healthy gut leads to a healthy immune system in our body, as most of our immune system, with an estimation of 80-85%, resides in our gut. Vital interaction of the bacteria with our body, ensure the balance of gut flora in our body. Gut flora is our immune system. The increased amounts of gut flora safeguards us from number of diseases, with better absorption of nutrients and releasing harmful toxins from our body.
- A perfect antioxidant :
The reason that fermented foods have proved to an excellent antioxidant is due to increase in amount of phenolic compounds and flavonoids during fermentation. Fermented food as an antioxidant is as effective as much as the green vegetables and freshly plucked berries.
Some of the best fermented foods include:
- Kefir :
A cultured dairy product, Kefir is the result of microbial activity of kefir grains, which are composed of combination of yeast and bacteria, with milk. It is a very good source of calcium. Intake of kefir has resulted in reduced lactose intolerance, better immune system, improves digestion system, enhances bone health and is known to have several anti-cancer properties. Benefits of kefir are numerous and it is one of the best form of fermented foods.
Commonly used as a seasoning in Japan, this semi-solid, paste like ingredient is highly beneficial for our health. This is mostly taken in the form of Miso soup. From reducing cholesterol and blood pressure to providing protection against type 2 diabetes, it also promotes heart and brain health.
- Kimchi :
Kimchi, the superfood of Korea is rich in range of vitamins, minerals and amino acids. Kimchi is an excellent food if you are looking for weight loss as the fibre content present in it controls your appetite and reduces blood sugar levels.
- Probiotic Yogurt:
Yogurt is, without a doubt, one of the most beneficial fermented foods. It is highly rich in calcium, zinc, vitamin B, probiotics and protein. Regular intake of probiotic yogurt also keeps your body weight in check.
Originally found in Indonesia, Tempeh is basically a fermented soybean product which has been compressed into the form of compact cake. Tempeh helps in muscle recovery and helps in dealing with the menopause by reducing down their symptoms.
Natto is a rich source of vitamins K1 and K2. Natto, like tempeh, is also made from fermented soybeans. It works as a blood purifier in our body, strengthens our bones and also helps in the weight loss process.
- Sauerkraut :
The beneficial probiotics found in sauerkraut help our body in several ways. They enhance the ‘good bacteria’ in your gut and avoid inflammation. This cultured food helps in fighting depression and cut down the risk of Alzheimer’s.
The bottom line is that if we keep swapping our diets from one to another, experimenting with food and our bodies, far from improving- our health starts deteriorating, unable to handle these changes after a point of time. Fermentation is a traditional, tried-and-tested method of keeping our body healthy, immune system intact and skin radiant. Fermentation is not a diet; it is a lifestyle.