The Health Benefits of Fermented Foods

We have fermented foods for thousands of years and it has been part of many people’s diet and culture.

There are a number of different bacteria that develop when fermenting foods. Lactobacilli bacteria are present on most living things. Bifidobacterium are more likely to be present in animal products, e.g., dairy, etc.

The lactic acid produced when these bacteria consume carbohydrates/sugar provides an acidic environment to preserve the food and helps to inhibit the growth of less beneficial bacteria.

Submerging the bacteria under liquid provides an anaerobic environment for the bacteria to proliferate.

Benefits of fermenting:

  1. Preserves the food, extending its shelf life.
  2. Begins to breakdown the food which makes it more digestible.
  3. Enriches and preserves the foods amino acids (proteins) and vitamins (B12,K2)
  4. Glucosinolate in cabbage is increased – natural compound that may help to fight cancer.
  5. Fermented foods often contain substrates and other nutrients such as prebiotics.
  6. Protect from pathogens.
  7. Support absorption of nutrients (magnesium, iron, calcium).
  8. Produces short chain fatty acids, butyrate, which provide energy for cells in the gut lining.
  9. Supports immune system (reduces inflammation, autoimmunity and allergies)
  10.  Creates probiotics (beneficial bacteria)

Why Ferment your own food?

Supplementation of probiotics is very popular and an easy option for many people. Further, another benefit of probiotic supplementation is that therapists can recommend specific strains of probiotics in supplements in order to assist with a particular condition. However, eating fermented foods is remains nutritionally valuable for the following reasons:

  1. Diversity – low diversity is linked to diseased states.
  2. Pre-biotic – contains fibres that may help gut bacteria to thrive.
  3. Synergistic effect of the food.
  4. Cost – home ferments can be cheap to produce.

Different types of fermentation

  1. Wild fermentation – no started culture required – sauerkraut, cultured/brined veg, kimchi and sourdough
  2. Starter fermentation – started culture required – whey, dried starter culture, SCOBY, dried kefir grains – kefir, kombucha, yoghurt.
  3. Dry salting – used to draw out moisture – fish, meats, cheese
  4. Brining – water, salt, spices used to make brine to submerge vegetables – cauliflower, cucumber, cabbage, fennel, carrot.

Poor Gut bacteria may be linked to the following diseases:

  1. Autoimmunity
  2. IBS
  3. Food intolerances
  4. Obesity
  5. T2 diabetes
  6. Eczema/asthma
  7. Dementia
  8. Colon cancer
  9. Parkinson’s disease
  10. Cardiovascular disease

How to introduce fermented foods:

  1. Introduce fermented foods slowly because they may cause digestive discomfort.
  2. Diversity – eat a different range of fermented foods
  3. Include a range of prebiotic food in the diet to help feed the good bugs – asparagus, onion, garlic, avocado, chicory, whole grains, less ripe bananas.
  4. Avoid sugary foods that feed less beneficial bacteria leading to flatulence and bloating and digestive discomfort.

However, CAUTION and seek the advice of a therapist if:

  1. You have Histamine intolerance
  2. You have Yeast intolerance
  3. You are Lactose intolerant
  4. You are taking Immunosuppressant drugs
  5. You are undergoing Chemotherapy

Tips for successful fermenting:

  1. Wash hands well
  2. Choose organic veg
  3. Clean with hot soapy water all utensils, jars, etc.
  4. Rinse well – distilled vinegar can be used to remove detergent
  5. Use plastic utensils not metal to avoid food reactions
  6. Use distilled water
  7. Avoid wooden boards and spoons that can harbour bacteria
  8. Make sure that veg stays submerged
  9. Keep out of direct sunlight

**If you see any unwanted mould growth – throw away.

Recipes : Please see recipe section under ‘snacks’ on this website

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