Fermentation is a conventional method of preserving food and drinks, originating from the pre-refrigerators and pre-freezers era. Fast forward to today, it is being used to produce healthy probiotics that act as a shield against gastrointestinal diseases.
This process is used to produce several types of foods, namely, yeast, cheese, wine, kombucha, kefir, and sauerkraut. We will discuss the role of fermentation in the production of these items in detail in the article below.
Fermented food is known to be rich in essential probiotics that are necessary for the body for a variety of reasons. To help you improve your grasp on the topic, we will discuss the uses and benefits of fermented food in greater depth.
What is Fermented Food?
Food fermentation is a process through which useful nutrients like carbohydrates (starch and sugar) are converted into acids or alcohols by the use of microorganisms, namely, yeast, lactic acid, and bacteria.
The end products, namely, bacteria and yeast, naturally have preservative factors that help in keeping food preserved for prolonged periods. They also have some elements of tartness and give food a sour flavor. However, their benefits stretch beyond the preservation tendencies and offer an abundance of health-associated advantages.
Good and Bad Bacteria
Our gut is occupied with two types of bacteria, each possessing a different nature and qualities. Some bacteria are good while others are bad for the health of our body. While bad bacteria can cause illness, good bacteria can be essential to combat the symptoms of these illnesses.
Besides, good bacteria contribute their efforts to the efficiency and productivity of our immune and digestive systems. To maintain the overall health of the human body it is essential to develop a balance between both types of bacteria.
Whenever there is a disturbance in the balance and the bad bacteria outweighs the good one, it leads to unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms. This condition is known as dysbiosis, the state in which the body observes such a shift in the balance of both bacteria. According to some popular studies, it has been established that a poor lifestyle and unhealthy eating habits can be a result of dysbiosis.
To prevent the flourishing of bad bacteria in the human body, it is recommended by health care experts to eliminate processed and sugar-rich foods and add more probiotics to our daily diet.
Benefits of Fermented Food for your Health
Several health benefits and positive outcomes are associated with the formation and usage of fermented food. To name a few, fermented food offers the human body improved digestion, better immunity, and the presence of beneficial nutrients.
It has also proved to offer various nutritional benefits to the body in surprising ways. Here is a list of all the reasons that demonstrate the fact that fermented food is good for human health:
Assists in Boosting Our Mind
The brain is considered as the CPU of a human body which is responsible for controlling every mechanism involved in the overall functioning of a human body. It sends signals to different organs and parts to instruct them on how to function.
Similarly, our gut is linked with our brain through the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. On the other hand, some neurons are stuffed within our gut that can influence our mood and behavior.
The neurotransmitter known as Serotonin is formed in the gut, which can have a serious impact on our psychological state and also acts as a probiotic. Some probiotics, namely Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium longum, are also associated with our mood regulation and help in reducing depression and stress.
Controls Phytic Acid and Lectins
Fermentation helps in breaking certain compounds and antinutrients that are harder to digest and absorb for humans. For example, Phytic acid, phytates, or lectins which are found in seeds, nuts, grains, and legumes, usually bind minerals like zinc and iron that make it difficult for the body to absorb.
However, by the use of fermentation, these insoluble minerals can be broken down and destroyed. Hence, fermented beans and legumes can be used to aid absorption as compared to other unfermented compounds.
Helps with Digestion
For people who experience stomach issues regularly, fermented food can be helpful through its amazing health benefits. The metabolization process aided by fermented food helps in converting and breaking complex carbohydrate components and other nutritions into simpler ones as compared to other unfermented components.
Furthermore, it helps maintain the balance of diverse gut microbiota as the body needs soluble fibers obtained from foods like beans, oranges, and oats. However, insoluble fibers have more benefits which are found in whole grains but cannot be fermented. Hence, they cannot diversify the amount of gut microbiota.
There are plenty of methods and approaches used when it comes to fermentation, and it’s a good idea for you to look into how the process takes place to get a better understanding. We must include the probiotics produced in the process of fermentation in our diet that help in restoring a healthy balance of gut bacteria and act as an aid in the process of digestion. They help in relieving symptoms of IBS-irritable bowel syndrome which is common among numerous digestive issues.
Besides, it helps in regulating symptoms like bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and stool frequency. For example, people who are lactose intolerant can use fermented dairy products like kefir and yogurt because they are easy to digest. Since lactose is a natural sugar found in milk, it can be easily converted into glucose and galactose with fermentation to make the process of digestion easier.
Good Bacteria Helps in Fighting the Bad Ones
In our routine life, we consume different types of bacteria that can be considered harmful to an average human’s health. However, due to the involvement of good bacteria and their ability to fight the harmful effects of the bad bacteria, you are saved from any potential harm.
According to experienced medical science experts, good bacteria are responsible for the creation of acidic fermentation byproducts. These byproducts have an important role in decreasing the chance of survival of the bad bacteria by lowering the pH level in your intestine. This is why the importance of good bacteria is regarded as an essential component in the human body.
Helps in Relieving the Side Effects of Antibiotics
When a person gets sick, they usually treat themselves by taking antibiotics. Although antibiotics help in recovering the body at a rapid rate, they can also cause harmful side effects. For instance, your stomach might be disturbed, resulting in diarrhea or other gut-related problems. This usually happens when antibiotics flush away good bacteria along with bad bacteria.
However, eating a diet rich in fibers, fermented components and probiotics can help restore your gut strength and helps in relieving the side effects of antibiotics.
Nutritional Significance of Fermented Food
The importance of probiotic bacteria must be evident at this point. Since our body has to maintain a balance between good and bad bacteria, fermented food effectively helps us with the ingredients.
Since fermented foods are laced with probiotic bacteria, they provide the required energy and immunity to the human body to support intestinal operations. They are responsible for strengthening the speed and improving the efficiency of the digestive and immune systems.
Offers a More Robust Heart Function
Probiotics present in fermented foods have been found to lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure in humans to aid better heart functioning. Taking probiotics daily can help strengthen the muscles of the heart and enhance its productivity to avoid heart-related diseases.
Provides Balance to the Body
Many small bacteria reside in our intestines that are required to create a balance and maintain the overall health and functioning of the body. According to several studies, it has been established that the gut microbiota which is less in number is linked with many chronic inflammatory conditions, such as obesity, bowel disease, or asthma.
Regulates Digestion and Absorption in the Human Body
It’s a no-brainer that digestion is an important process in the human body. It is in charge of making sure the starches and sugars are separated from the food we eat. However, fermented food is relatively easier to digest.
The process of fermentation ensures that the lactose in milk is converted into simple sugars, glucose, and galactose. This eases the procedure for people with lactose intolerance as it can be converted into products like cheese and yogurt that are easy to digest.
Serves as Weight Loss Agent
Some probiotic strains like Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus gasseri can reduce obesity and aid weight loss. They have an impact on your plans of decreasing your belly fat.
Supports the Formation of Certain Vitamins
Good bacteria help in synthesizing and producing several nutritional vitamins that a body needs daily.
What Kind of Food Products are Made with Fermentation?
The following food products are rich in probiotics and are a great source of immunity and strength for the human body.
With the progress in food industries, many food industrialists and food makers are preparing the fermented dough. This dough is known as sourdough and is generally used to make baked items like bread, pizza, etc.
Lassi is popular among Asian cultures, where people consume it frequently during the hot summer days. Lassi is a source of calcium made from soured milk. It is also rich in prebiotic bacteria.
Kefir is a drink that is cultured and enriched with probiotics. It contains healthy yeasts and bacteria that provide immunity to the body. It is also a good source of vitamins and minerals, most commonly, vitamin K and B.
Kimchi is a fermented vegetable, famously consumed as cabbage. Unlike Sauerkraut it is much spicier. It is a special traditional Korean dish prepared from cabbage, scallions, radish, and spices. It can be considered a powerhouse of manganese, iron, sodium, calcium, copper, and magnesium.
Kombucha is a fermented black tea. It is a good replacement for soda because it is fizzy and has a variety of benefits. The tea is rich in bacteria and yeast, where both serve different purposes. Bacteria in Kombucha convert alcohol into acetic acid to give it a bitter taste. While yeast transforms sugar into carbon dioxide and alcohol.
Miso is a powerhouse of essential minerals and vitamins, namely, vitamin B, E, K, and folic acid. It is a traditional paste used in Japan and is the fermented form of soybeans.
Pickles are common among the desi people typically living in the continent of Asia. Asians love to include pickles in their daily meals. However, it is made through fermentation by the help of which it can be easily stored in jars at normal room temperature for weeks or even months. Some Lacto-fermented pickles are made with dill, coriander seeds, mustard, coriander seeds, and peppercorns.
Sauerkraut is a staple commonly consumed in Eastern Europe. It is a fermented cabbage that is rich in fibers, vitamin C, A, B, and K. It strengthens the body by completing the dietary requirements, such as, iron, copper, manganese, calcium, and sodium.
Tempeh is another kind of fermented soybeans. This food is typically used by vegetarians because they are rich in proteins and offer better stability.
Yogurt is a non-dairy product made from fermented milk, also recognized as an alternative to milk. It is much richer in calcium than natural milk and contains potential probiotics needed by the body for the defense against bad bacteria.
Yogurt contains Lactobacillus bacteria that turns lactose sugar found in milk into galactose or glucose which is further converted into lactic acid. The bitterness in yogurt is because of the presence of lactic acid.
However, in some regions, yogurt is known to be made from Kefir components that have the source of bacteria and yeast due to which it becomes a bit frizzy and sour. These bacteria are known as the warriors who help the body battle gut diseases
Defensive Powers of Fermented Food Products
When a body is deprived of the good bacteria that help in fighting and reducing the growth of microbes, it can result in inflammation within a body that can cause further unfavorable outcomes.
The availability of essential probiotics acts as a line of defense against numerous bacteria and helps in relieving several diseases. A major part of the immune system is operated in our gut system. The consumption of foods that are rich in probiotics helps in providing our gut lining with all the defensive powers necessary to create a barrier against potential toxic elements.
The process of fermentation helps in creating essential probiotics that can act as an aid for the body to lower the risks associated with toxic foods, such as infections, inflammations, bowel sickness, and other ailments. Furthermore, it has also proved to provide faster recovery when a person feels sick because they contain defensive nutrients like iron, zinc, and vitamin C. Therefore, it is established that we have to add some portions of a probiotic-rich diet to our daily food supplies to create a healthy balance.