Updated: Jan 28
You may wonder what is all the fuss about fermented food and drinks?
Well fermented foods are here to stay, they have been around for millennia, conferring all sorts of health benefits to those wise enough to eat them.
Fermented foods undergo a magical microbial transformation by bacteria and yeasts. Fermenting was traditionally a way to preserve food and resulted in a nutritionally superior product. In stark contrast to our modern way of preserving food, which is to heat it to high temperatures, destroying all live bacteria and enzymes, then adding chemicals, which further destroys the beneficial bacteria in our gut!
Is it any wonder that we have such chronic health problems???
During fermentation, the beneficial bacteria, usually strains of lactobacillus get to work, breaking down the sugars and fibres, creating a massive increase in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and live probiotics!
So fermented foods are essentially pre-digested, meaning they are easier for your body to digest and nutritionally superior, so a wise choice for everyone!
In my opinion all naturally fermented foods are superfoods and have a very powerful effect on our health, largely by balancing our gut microbiome, one of the most important organs in the body.
Every culture traditionally has their own cultured or fermented food, and recipes and methods are handed down through the generations.
Sauerkraut means sour cabbage, and is associated with Germany, although it actually originated in ancient China. The lactobacillus bacteria create lactic acid which causes the sour taste. There are more probiotics in a tablespoon of sauerkraut than in a whole bottle of probiotic capsules and it costs pennies to prepare at home. All you need is a cabbage, natural salt and a glass jar, oh and some patience to allow the magical transformation to occur!
Kimchi is the spicy Asian version, flavoured with chilli, ginger and garlic, and every household has their favourite recipe.
Miso, tempeh, tamari and Natto are all fermented soy from the Far East.
Milk kefir hails from the Caucasus Mountain area of Russia, made by fermenting milk at room temperature with milk kefir grains - like wee mini cauliflowers - resulting in the most probiotic-rich food on the planet! Think yoghurt on steroids!
Yoghurt contains 2 or 3 strains of beneficial bacteria but kefir contains between 30 and 40, with all the resultant health benefits. Kefir is great for digestive and skin complaints, including acid reflux, stomach ulcers, IBS, ulcerative Colitis, Crohns, acne, psoriasis and eczema.
Kefir can be made using plant milks; coconut kefir is delicious, thick and creamy like an upmarket version of coconut yoghurt.
Water kefir is made with water kefir grains - like wee crystals - and is simply made with sugar and water, then flavoured with fruit or spices. It is one of the simplest and fastest ferments to make and results in a delicious super fizzy probiotic drink!
Kombucha is made from sweetened fermented tea, traditionally with black or green tea. A scoby is the culture required to ferment the tea into an amazing lightly sparkling health tonic.
A Scoby is a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts, a cellulose mat comprised of cellulose fibres and lots of different strains of beneficial bacteria and yeasts.
Kombucha is classed as an adaptagen, it brings balance back to the body, supports the liver and other organs, think of it as a spring clean for your body, clearing toxins and destroying pathogens, parasites and viruses. It can be flavoured with herbs, fruits and spices for the most delicious pick-me -up and energy boost. It is the most effective cure for a hangover, it clears alcohol residues from the body fast!! It’s packed with all sorts of beneficial compounds to support health on every level.
Kombucha has become very popular in recent years, and rightly so, its delicious and a real health tonic!Like sauerkraut, its simple to make at home, once you have acquired a Scoby, which will keep growing baby ones, so you only have to source it once, then look after it!
Sourdough is real bread, which has sustained us since biblical times, and is made from 3 ingredients, flour, water and salt. Compare this to commercially produced bread with a long list of ingredients, none of them beneficial to our health. Preservatives, emulsifiers, flour improvers, sugar, commercial yeast and excess sodium. It acts like glue in the digestive system causing all sorts of problems. That’s before you consider the glyphosate residues, present in all conventionally grown wheat!
Sourdough, in complete contrast, is highly nutritious and digestible.
During the long fermentation the naturally present bacteria from the sourdough starter breaks down the gluten and phytic acid, which binds to calcium, zinc, magnesium and iron, releasing these minerals for the body to absorb. Gluten causes all sorts of digestive issues, but largely most people with a gluten intolerance can eat naturally fermented sourdough without any digestive upset.
The longer the dough is fermented, the more digestible it becomes and also the more sour it will taste as the bacteria create lactic acid, as in sauerkraut, which naturally preserves it from mould.
We have become a bit of a germ phobic society, destroying bacteria, good and bad, subjecting our food to all sorts of artificial processes, adding chemicals and preservatives and our health is suffering like never before.
It’s time to take back control of our health and start introducing the ancient and magical form of Fermentation into our lives!