Wine, beer, miso, sauerkraut, kimchi,vinegar, cheese, yoghurt, sourdough,kombucha… A good number of the food products we consume are fermented. Not only do we owe their unique, slightly vinegary flavour to fermentation, but these items are being recognized more and more for their nutritional benefits. But what makes a product fermented? Why are they good for you? And how often should you consume them? Let’s break it all down…
What is fermentation?
Fermented foods have been part of the human diet for centuries. It was initially used to preserve food longer in the days before refrigeration, especially in colder northern climates. Fermentation can be produced either through an aerobic or anaerobic process -- that is, conducted with or without oxygen -- in which microorganisms break down foods into smaller components, like organic acids, gases or alcohol. Anything from fruits and vegetables to cereals and meats can be fermented, strengthening their flavour and nutritional properties.
Where does fermentation come from?
We owe the study of fermentation, called zymology, to the French chemist Louis Pasteur, also the father of vaccination, who studied the fermentation of sugar and yeast into alcohol in the 1800s. He connected the process of fermentation to the life and organization of yeast cells. It was only decades later that we would learn that yeast extracts can ferment sugar without living yeast cells.
In 1897, German chemist Edward Buchner discovered that when living yeast cells were absent from a mixture, an enzyme mixture secreted by the yeast that he dubbedzymase enabled the fermentation process. He won a Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his discovery.
Today, fermentation has five distinct purposes: to preserve food longer, as our ancestors used it; to develop diverse flavours, aromas and textures; to enrich the nutritional profiles of foods; to eliminate antinutrients, components that reduce the absorption of nutrients; and to reduce cooking time and power.
"But fear not. Here at Gutsy, our fermentation process aims to preserve the most benefits possible--with a longer fermentation time and zero pasteurization--so drink up!"
Why is fermentation good for you?
Today, fermentation is probably best known as a process that enhances the nutrients of various food items, so much so that fermentation has almost become synonymous with probiotics.And researchers have long believed that probiotics enhance gut health.Unfortunately, much of the Western diet consists of processed foods, which are decidedly low in nutritional value and often upset the digestive tract.
Probiotics are healthy, live bacteria either found naturally in foods or added to them to improve their nutritional qualities. They are known to support the immune system and enhance the digestive tract. You can read more about them here.
There are many kinds of healthy bacteria found in fermented foods, but the one most dominant in kombucha is acetic acid bacteria (AAB). And the number of probiotics will vary according to the length of fermentation.
So, warning: do your research before believing the claims of food companies. Processes like pasteurization can kill the probiotics found in certain foods or beverages, effectively decimating their health benefits. But fear not. Here at Gutsy, our fermentation process aims to preserve the most benefits possible--with a longer fermentation time and zero pasteurization--so drink up!
How should fermented foods be consumed?
Although probiotics are great for gut--and overall-health, you don’t need to consume them every day to enjoy their benefits. A few times a week will suffice--and everyone’s body is different, so it’s important to pay attention to how yours reacts.
Swap out one of your daily coffees with a kombucha. Top your sandwich with sauerkraut. Or have an afternoon snack of yoghurt and berries.
Your body will thank you!