Benefits & Types of Fermented Foods
The fermentation of food has been an important tradition in world history. Across cultures and cuisines, people have used fermented food as part of their daily diet. Koreans fermented cabbage to create kimchi while Romans made sauerkraut. In ancient Greece, fermented cabbage was used as a healing mechanism. In India, pickles and curd have been popular fermented foods and are part of the daily diet of many people.
Fermentation is basically the process in which natural bacteria is allowed to feed on the sugar/starch in the food to create lactic acid. This preserves the nutrients in the food, creates enzymes that are beneficial to health and produces numerous probiotics that enhance digestion. Consuming fermented foods on a daily basis has the following benefits –
- Helps Absorb More Nutrients – Fermentation preserves the nutrients in the food and helps make it easily digestible. The inflow of healthy gut bacteria and digestive enzymes helps the body to absorb more nutrients in the foods you eat.
- Improves Immunity – Fermented foods introduce our body to probiotics which help maintain the balance of bacteria in our digestive system. Probiotics have been known to reverse some diseases, improve bowel movement, help digestion and improve immunity.
- Feel Better – They say that the gut is our second brain. Remember the term gut-feeling? That’s how it emerged! When your gut is happy, you are happy. A gut with healthy bacteria supports mood and brain function. Hence, fermented foods that result in a happy gut also make you feel happier ultimately.
Unfortunately, modern food processing and mass commercial production of food has led to this traditional fermentation process fading out. For example, traditional or organic pickles are made using salt and water while modern pickles are made instantly using vinegar. This results in the absence of the beneficial lactic acid bacteria.
However, you can still include fermented foods in your diet. The process of fermentation is a simple one and shouldn’t take too much effort. Here is a list of fermented foods that you can try at home –
- Whey – This is the liquid that remains after the curds and the cream are removed from milk. Whey can be mixed with vegetables, fruits or soups for added flavour. Whey protein is also available as a supplement in the market.
- Yoghurt/Curd – One of the easiest and the most popular fermented delicacy, yoghurt is easily available and can be made at home as well. While flavoured yoghurts contain a lot of sugar and other preservatives which are not good, home-made natural curd is very beneficial for health.
- Cottage Cheese – Otherwise known as paneer, cottage cheese is rich in calcium, protein and vitamins A, C, E and D.
- Dhokla – A Gujarati delicacy, this is made from fermented batter consisting of rice and chickpeas.
- Dosa – A popular south Indian dish, the dosa is made from fermented batter consisting of rice and lentils.
- Sauerkraut – This is a form of fermented cabbage that is naturally salty and tasty. One can easily make this at home.
- Miso – A popular Japanese condiment, miso is made from a combination of soybeans and rice. It is rich in vitamin B6, vitamin K, manganese and phosphorus.
- Pickles – The good old Indian grandma pickle is a great food and adds a nice tangy twist to our taste buds.
- Kefir – A delicious drink made by adding kefir grains to milk. Originated in the north Caucasus Mountains, this drink can be made with water or coconut water as well.
- Kombucha – This is a type of tea which can be flavoured with fruit or herbs. It has fizzy bubbles and a sweet taste that makes it extremely popular.
- Ginger Beer – A great alternative to sodas and sweetened carbonated drinks, ginger beer is made from ginger, lime juice, water, sugar and yeast. It is a cousin of ginger ale.