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The (not so) big deal about fermented food

by BK (follow)
Nutrition (269)      Therapeutic Foods (53)     
Source:Flickr:I Believe I Can Fry

I have nothing against fermented food. But the hype about it makes people believe that it is something new and they fall into the trap of buying expensive special drinks and over the counter supplements.

As a kid, I had seen my mum prepare a big jar full of fermented drink for the whole family every winter season. We were told it helps with digestion. I had absolutely no idea what that meant but loved the taste of it.

Fast-forward a few years, and now I understand the big deal about the drink and whole process of fermentation.

What is fermentation and how does it happen in food?

In simple language, fermentation is when a cell does not have oxygen and uses sugar to convert carbohydrates into acids or alcohols. This is just like adding sugar to yeast for any bread recipe to speed up the fermentation. Yeast feeds on sugar. Fermentation is used in making beer, bread, yogurt, pickles and many other recipes. Lactic acid produced during fermentation gives food its distinct flavor and acts as a preservative.

Reasons to eat fermented food

1.Probiotics- Probiotic is a good bacterium that improves digestion, metabolism and boosts immunity. It is also known to help with Irritable bowel syndrome, also known as IBS.

2.Nutrient Absorption- Fermentation helps in breaking down natural and synthetic compounds in food to improve the absorption of nutrients in our body. For example, fermentation can help break down phytic acid found in seeds and legumes making zinc and iron easily available for absorption.

3.Natural Preservative While a regular recipe can last in your fridge for a couple of days, fermented food can last for months. Lacto fermentation is the key.

Fermented food does not have to be boring. There are some absolutely delicious ways to soak in its benefits.

1. Bread- Yeast in the bread eats up on sugar and flour and forms carbon dioxide. It acts as a raising agent in bread and creates air holes. But if you are allergic to any kind of bread or yeast, do not give up. Keep reading.

Source:Flickr:Barron Fujimoto

2. Pickled vegetables- Kimchi, dill pickles, carrots, sauerkraut can be easily fermented at home using salt, water and mustard seeds.


3. Yogurt and Kefir- These are absolutely amazing for digestion and metabolism. It is easy to make yogurt at home. One spoon of yogurt from an existing batch is enough to make another batch of yogurt. It does not really need a special culture for the process.

Source:Flickr:Robyn Lee

4. Miso, tempeh and soy sauce- All three are a result of fermented soybeans. So, do not forget to enjoy that miso soup and add soy sauce as a dressing on your salad more often.

Source:Flickr:Eric Murray

5. Vinegar- Have you ever wondered why most of the salad dressings include vinegar? It has more to it than just the taste. Vinegar is one of the most used forms of fermented food in our daily routine.

Source:Flickr:Fruit Balsamic Vinegars:Justin Marx

6. Alcoholic Drinks- The process of making beer and wine includes fermentation. But, it wouldn't be healthy to depend on these drinks for obvious reasons.

Source:Flickr:Beer Fermentation Tanks by Christopher Spooner

7. Chocolate- Cocoa fermentation is a key step in chocolate making . Chocolate made from unfermented cocoa beans is not as rich and dense as the ones made with fermented cocoa beans.

Fermented Cocoa Beans. Source:Wikimedia commons

While fermented food yield some really good health benefits, it is always important to keep a check on your diet and refrain from overdoing it. Excess of bread, alcohol or chocolate is not considered healthy either. If you are looking for a safe option, stick with plain sugar free yogurt, vinegar and some other natural choices.

Related articles
Why homemade yogurt rocks
Kefir: A probiotic powerhouse

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