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Why ferment foods and drinks?

by Amber Fairweather |

What is fermentation?

History has shown us that almost all societies across time have included fermented foods and drinks in their diets.

Fermentation is the oldest form of food preservation and allowed for people to have access to nutrient rich foods all year round; through famines, wars and seasonal changes. 

Put simply, fermentation is a technique for transforming foods by either discouraging or encouraging certain micro-organisms; resulting in more nutrient available foods. For example, often people who can't eat dairy can eat cheese. 

By manipulating the environment in which we ferment foods, we can encourage the beneficial bacteria while discouraging the unwanted or harmful bacteria. 

Fermentation is a process in which organism convert carbohydrates such as starch or sugars into alcohol or acid. This can be seen for example in kombucha or water kefir where sugars are consumed by the microorganisms and the by-product is a fermented beverage with minerals, vitamins, probiotic bacteria, carbon dioxide and a small percent of alcohol, normally less than 0.5%. 

During vegetable and sauerkraut fermentation the process produces lactic acid. This acidic environment makes it too acidic for the growth of pathogenic micro-organisms. You are left with an end product which has higher levels of vitamins, minerals and probiotic bacteria than the original fresh produce you started with. 

Why ferment food?

Fermented foods are a simple way to preserve foods without negatively impacting the microorganisms which inhabit the food.

Fermented foods provide a variety of desirable flavours that can only be achieved through the process of fermenting. 

Health- research is showing more and more the health benefits of fermented foods. 

The human is inhabited by more than one hundred trillion bacteria which makes up approximately 2kgs of our total body weight and outnumbers our total human body cells. Collectively this is known as the human microbiome. 

Did you know that more than 70% of our immune system resides in our gut and more than 90% of our serotonin is produced in our gut. 

Just from these two facts; we can see how impactful our gut health is on our physical wellbeing and out mental and emotional wellbeing. 

Modern lifestyles impact on our health. We eat less organic foods, experience more stress, infections and consume processed foods, antibiotics, sugars and carbohydrates which all affect our microbiomes.  

We can never kill unwanted bacteria. They will simply regrow and come back. Ultimately, we want to have a balanced microbiome which is made up of 80% good bacteria and 20% of what we term unwanted bacteria. To avoid dysbiosis or disrupting this ratio, we cannot kill the unwanted bacteria, but rather we keep it in check/ or flood out the unwanted bacteria by consuming the good bacteria. We can get these bacteria by consuming a variety of fermented foods and drinks.


Health benefits of consuming fermented foods and drinks

Many illnesses begin in the gut, fermented foods and drinks are one piece of the puzzle to improving your health. Research suggests fermented foods and drinks can improve: 

  • Digestion
  • Gut Health
  • Immune System 
  • Availability of nutrients
  • Mental and emotional health
  • Auto-immune diseases


Safety of consuming fermented foods and drinks

Fermented foods and drinks are generally considered safe for most people. It is always best to check with your healthcare provider when in doubt.