We need to talk about fermentation…
Quite recently I had a conversation about fermented foods and it’s benefits. I knew that it’s really important for our guts, does a lot for digestion, but did not realised that it’s actually one of the true reasons why we are healthy, with normal BMI and live longer. Fermented foods provide our guts with bacteria, little microorganisms which helps to balance our metabolism, improve your immune system function, help slow or reverse some diseases, improve bowel health, aid digestion. Having the proper balance of gut bacteria and enough digestive enzymes helps you absorb more of the nutrients in the foods you eat.
I always thought that my home countries diet is really unhealthy, because how I describe it ‘it’s based on pork and potatoes’, but I did not take in consideration that we eat quite a lot of fermented foods (oh well at least the older generation was eating). I remember, when I was a kid every autumn we used to prepare huge wooden barrel of sauerkraut, as well as significant amount of jars of fermented cucumbers and eat them during winter when we use to have less of the fresh vegetables. As well as kefir is pretty popular, which is a product of fermented milk. Maybe it is the reason why eating such a heavy in meat and starch diet people are not obese and pretty healthy in general. Of course there’s nothing to compare with Japan which probably has the longest life expectancy in the world and to be honest some recent researches relate consumption of fermented food and longevity of Japanese life. And we all know, Japan has the richest variety of fermented foods in the world.
Fermentation is not new ages invention, especially in Europe it has been forgotten and not that much popular anymore. But luckily people started to be more cautious about what they eat and get back to the real foods again. Here is a brief history of fermentation from the Weston Price Foundation website:
It may seem strange to us that, in earlier times, people knew how to preserve vegetables for long periods without the use of freezers or canning machines through the process of lacto-fermentation. Lactic acid is a natural preservative that inhibits putrefying bacteria. Starches and sugars in vegetables and fruits are converted into lactic acid by the many species of lactic-acid-producing bacteria…The ancient Greeks understood that important chemical changes took place during this type of fermentation. Their name for this change was “alchemy.” Like the fermentation of dairy products, preservation of vegetables and fruits by the process of lacto-fermentation has numerous advantages beyond those of simple preservation. The proliferation of lactobacilli in fermented vegetables enhances their digestibility and increases vitamin levels. These beneficial organisms produce numerous helpful enzymes as well as antibiotic and anticarcinogenic substances. Their main by-product, lactic acid, not only keeps vegetables and fruits in a state of perfect preservation but also promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestine.
So what are the most known and the most popular vegan fermented foods:
Kombucha (Did not manage to buy it)
There are many reasons to consume kombucha, a fermented beverage of black tea and sugar (from various sources like cane sugar, fruit or honey). It contains a colony of bacteria and yeast that are responsible for initiating the fermentation process once combined with sugar.
After being fermented, kombucha becomes carbonated and contains vinegar, B-vitamins, enzymes, probiotics and a high concentration of acid (acetic, gluconic and lactic). There are reasons to drink kombucha every day because it improves digestion, helps with weight loss, increases energy, detoxes the body, supports the immune system, reduces joint pain and prevents cancer.
Sauerkraut (No 3 in the picture)
Sauerkraut is one of the oldest traditional foods. Made from fermented cabbage, it’s high in dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K and B vitamins. It’s also a great source of iron, copper, calcium, sodium, manganese and magnesium. Sauerkraut has a variety of beneficial effects on human health; it boosts digestive health, aids circulation, fights inflammation, strengthens bones and reduces cholesterol levels.
Pickles (No 5 in the picture)
Pickles contain a ton and vitamins and minerals, plus antioxidants and gut-friendly bacteria. Pickles alone can help address the all-too-common vitamin K deficiency, as one small pickle contains 18 percent of your daily value of this vitamin that’s an essential fat-soluble vitamin which plays an important role in bone and heart health. When choosing a jar of pickles, go with a food manufacturer that uses organic products. If you can find a local maker, you’ll be getting some of the best probiotics for your health.
Miso (No 2 in the picture)
Miso is created by fermenting soybean, barley or brown rice with koji, a fungus. Miso has anti-aging properties and helps to maintain healthy skin. It also boosts the immune system, lowers the risk cancer, improves bone health and promotes a healthy nervous system.
Tempeh (did not manage to buy it)
Another beneficial fermented food is tempeh, which is a soybean product that is created by adding a tempeh starter (which is a mix of live mold). When it sits for a day or two, it becomes a cake-like product.
Tempeh reduces cholesterol, increases bone density, reduces menopausal symptoms, promotes muscle recovery and has the same protein quality as meat. It contains high levels of vitamins B5, B6, B3 and B2.
Natto (No 4 in the picture)
Natto is a popular dish in Japan consisting of fermented soybeans. It contains the extremely powerful probiotic bacillus subtilis, which has been proven to support the immune system and cardiovascular health; it also enhances the digestion of vitamin K2. In addition to these Natto benefits, it contains a powerful anti-inflammatory enzyme called nattokinase that has been proven to fight cancer.
Kimchi (No 1 in the picture)
Kimchi is a traditional fermented Korean dish that is made from vegetables including cabbage, plus spices and seasoning. This Korean delicacy dates back to the 7th century.
It’s known to improve cardiovascular and digestive health. It has high levels of antioxidants that reduce the risk of serious health conditions such as cancer, diabetes, obesity and gastric ulcers.
Additionally in the picture I show soya souce, which is a product of fermentation as well as the rest. But maybe not as much health beneficial as the others. Although it is good source of sodium and it’s in general better than normal table salt.
Just to sump up is it good to eat fermented food, especially if you are vegan:
Fermentation is the only type of preparation of foods that cannot destroy certain nutrients, will creates more nutrients and enhances others.
It removes toxins and harmful bacteria found in many foods.
It will improve your digestion, especially when consumed before your meal and also allows for your nutrients to be absorbed properly.
It aids in the preservation and creation of important enzymes.
Fermentation is a huge supporter to your immune function. It increases your B and K2 vitamins (Natto), omega-3 fatty acids, digestive enzymes, lactase and lactic acid that fight off harmful bacteria.