Digestion | August 21, 2016 | Author: Naturopath
The popularity of fermented foods as a beneficial contributors for health has increased over the past years. Clearly the drive and passion for good health is on the increase and we find people are not just looking to the future to help their disease, but a big focus has been directed to past practices. One of those is fermentation. But what makes fermented foods a stand out among today’s modern diet and why does the body need it?
Fermentation is a type of metabolic process in which microorganisms or cells (such as bacteria or yeasts) convert organic compounds, like sugars or glucose, into alcohol or acid. This process enables these microorganisms to produce energy to fuel their metabolism. The bacteria or yeast undergo lactic acid fermentation and ethanol fermentation respectively, and depending on the type of bacteria or yeast used, will offer different flavours and texture.
Aside from adding character to meals, there are many claims on the beneficial effects of fermented food for the body. Clinical studies have investigated effects of probiotics (good bacteria) on health and have found the following benefits :
Optimization of the immune system Almost 80% of the immune system is located in the gut, so it makes sense eating fermented foods can give a good supply of live “beneficial” bacteria or probiotics to assist this system. Studies found taking probiotics showed an improvement in the mucosal immune system and motility of the digestive tract, improvement of the symptoms of lactose intolerance and the prevention of infection to pathogens. A healthy gut ultimately makes up a robust immune system – the body’s defense system against diseases.
Supply essential nutrients Fermented foods are good sources of nutrients needed by the body. For example, Vitamin K2 which can be found in cheese curd, prevents the buildup of arterial plaque and heart diseases. Fermented foods are also known to be excellent sources of many B vitamins.
Taste Fermented foods can help develop flavour. Examples are vanilla and chocolate – their flavours are a product of fermentation.
Detoxification One of the many good things about fermented foods is that they are highly potent detoxifiers. Many good bacteria aid in the elimination of toxins from the body.
Destroy anti-nutrients Anti-nutrients are natural or synthetic compounds that prevent the absorption of nutrients. Fermented foods eliminate these anti-nutrients. A good example is phytic acid, found in legumes and seeds, which bind to certain minerals, like iron and zinc, preventing their absorption. Through fermentation, phytic acid can be broken down thus avoiding the problem.
Skin. There is a growing understanding about the connection of the digestive system and the skin. A healthy, happy inside will represent itself on the outside. If the digestive system is healthy and full of good bacteria, then it contributes to a healthy-looking skin. Fermented beverages, like kefir, have been shown to reduce dryness of the skin and aid in the replication of healthy skin cells. Other fermented beverages also contain lactic acid, a natural form of alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA), which helps in collagen formation, ultimately helping reduce the signs of ageing.
The microflora, - the group of bacteria, fungi, viruses and other microbes that make up the microbial inner ecosystem, affects not only the immune system and the skin, but also contribute to health. A study called the Neurogastroenterology & Motility suggests that the state of the gut alters the behavior.
The gut serves as a second brain. The fact that it produces more of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is known to have a positive influence on your mood, than your brain does clearly signifies that it does have a control over behavior.
A study in Denmark showed that bacterial population in the gut of diabetics and non-diabetics are different.
If struggling to lose weight, restoring the gut flora may be the answer. Probiotics are known to help fight obesity.
There are many different types of fermented food around the world. Different countries offer different versions of fermentation. The most common in Australia are:
such as kimchi, sauerkraut and dill pickles can undergo lactic acid fermentation where the lactobacilli bacteria convert the sugar in the vegetable into lactic acid. This is done by mixing vegetable and spices with salt and water (brine). The salt stops the growth of unwanted organisms. The lactobacilli then produces acid that lowers the pH level sufficiently. The final product will be very rich in microbes. One thing to keep in mind is that lacto-fermented vegetables aren’t mass produced. They are the products of DIY or health food stores. The ones available at supermarkets have been preserved by vinegar and not through fermentation, or have been pasteurized, which kills all organisms.
Acidifying the milk through lacto-fermentation, lactic acid is formed. Bacteria and molds continue to form as the cheese ripens, giving it that distinct flavour and texture.
The lactobacilli convert lactose sugar in milk into glucose and galactose, eventually breaking down into lactic acid. Live bacteria still remain in the yogurt and provide valuable contribution to the gut microflora.
Yeasts, found in bread, ferment sugar in the flour and forms carbon dioxide and alcohol. The air holes in breads is the carbon dioxide, the raising agent of breads. The alcohol though, is mostly destroyed during the baking process.
Salami and other uncooked meat products, like pepperoni and chorizo, are mixed with salt, nitrate, spices and sugar. The lactobacilli ferment the sugar, converting it to lactic acid, this then coagulates the meat and gives off that distinct taste. The lactic acid and nitrate also prevents the growth of harmful microorganisms, reducing the need for refrigeration.
A a fermented milk drink made with kefir grains produced by using lactobacilli bacteria culture and yeast.
This is a traditional soybean product made through both a natural culturing and controlled fermentation process that includes adding a mix of live mold. Tempeh has becoming a very popular fermented food because it is known to reduce cholesterol and menopausal symptoms, increase bone density and aid in muscle recovery. In addition, it has the same amount of protein found in meat and high levels of vitamins B3, B5 and B6.
Made from sweetened black or green tea, Kombucha Tea is fermented with yeast and bacteria. The yeast turns the sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide, and the bacteria (acetobacter) convert the alcohol into acetic acid, giving the tea that sour taste. Authorities have warned people against drinking large amounts of kombucha tea due to variability in the quality of home brewing. Some deaths have been linked to this.
Exposing crushed apples to yeast, ferments the sugars in the apples and converts them into alcohol. Bacteria are then added to the solution and with further fermentation, turn it into acetic acid. Apple cider vinegar is very high in acetic acid, which is known to have many positive biological effects. It contains about 3 calories per tablespoon, amino acids and antioxidants.
Other popular fermented foods include olives, alcoholic drinks such as beer and wine, chocolate and vanilla.