Fermented Foods For Health
Kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut, miso and kefir – all very mysterious sounding, and all fermented food and drink products very much having their moment right now.
If you are yet to get your head around Korean-style fermented vegetables or the naturally fizzy cocktail of green tea and sugar that is kombucha, then we’ve got just the remedy for your apprehensive taste-buds.
According to a survey among 2,050 nutritionists, fermented foods are the number one ‘superfoods’ in the US this year, with the global market expected to reach US$ 40 Billion by 2022.
No doubt fermented foods are all the rage, but is there any truth behind the hype?
In simple terms, fermentation means that the sugars and carbohydrates in a food have been broken down by ‘good’ bacteria, which is said to make food more digestible, preserve nutrients, help curb sugar cravings, keep the immune system healthy and benefit the overall gut health. Not to be confused with pickling, which simply refers to anything preserved by acidity (like vinegar), fermentation cultivates, rather than destroys microorganisms. These gut-healthy microorganisms are at the centre of the fermented hype. We are finally waking up to the importance and power of a healthy gut and are apparently happy to splash our cash in the pursuit of gut-health.
Income kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut, miso and kefir, all offering a much healthier dose of probiotic goodness. Because of how they are prepared, they all contain microorganisms that boost the diversity of good bacteria, yeasts and fungi living in our guts.
Harbouring a flourishing gut flora has been linked to lower obesity, fewer autoimmune conditions and digestion problems, longer lifespan and good brain function. Not to keep the list short, the BBC reports studies that have associated microbes with a lower incidence of cancer, heart disease, liver disease, diabetes, asthma, depression, autism, irritable bowel syndrome, colic, Parkinson’s and many allergies. And what’s more, (we told you they were good) fermented foods may also benefit mental health. Some studies have confirmed that the gut affects our mood and plays into food cravings and eating behaviours.
As with most fads, fermentation is nothing new. Humans have been harnessing the natural action of microorganisms to preserve food for thousands of years, but the fermentation revival has seen some very big companies taking note. Kombucha, no longer native to just health food stores, is now on offer in practically all supermarkets. Flavoured versions of the fermented-milk drink kefir, likewise, are becoming widely available, with brands like The Culture Co. and Milk Thief taking the lead in Australia. Kimichi and sauerkraut are also becoming go-to grocery shopping items.
But unless you are fermenting foods yourself, feeding your gut a good dose of magical microbes is not cheap business – a 400ml bottle of kombucha will set you back $4.50. So it’s good to know that bog-standard live yoghurts aren’t a total health plop, just opt for the ones with low sugar content.