An ancient method of food preservation is brewing up a storm in supermarkets. It’s fermentation ‑ and sales of yogurt, kefir, kimchi, kombucha, pickles, miso, and even sauerkraut are rising because health professionals say these fermented foods are naturally good for overall well-being, hailing them as the No.1 superfood for 2018.
Our ancestors were pretty clever. Vegetables, dairy, and even meats were fermented as a way to preserve them well beyond harvest before the discovery of modern refrigeration and other preservatives. Scientific evidence now shows this process offers unique and numerous health benefits in addition to the eating pleasure.
Our bodies contain more foreign bacteria than our very own cells. Our gut bacteria actually make vitamin K and a bunch of B vitamins inside our bodies for additional nourishment. When we consume fermented foods, we replenish these beneficial microbes with reinforcements of “good” bacteria and thus improve health and longevity.
The food industry has always relied on fermentation to evoke and enhance unique functionalities, taste, and nutritional benefits. Did you know that it’s fermentation that creates ingredients like cocoa, tea, and coffee and turns lowly grains like wheat, barley, and teff into sophisticated tasting sourdough bread, beer, and injra? Biopharmaceuticals like insulin are more affordable and natural meat preservatives like lactoferrin are commercially viable today, thanks to fermentation.
Fermented drinks like kefir and kombucha are becoming mainstream in retail and foodservice, while fermented vegetables like sauerkraut, dill, and kimchi are gaining popularity as flavoring ingredients for a number of foods including everyday snacks.
Kimchi, with its naturally wide range of tastes and textures, is being used to dress up Ramen noodles and add a kick along with a dollop of probiotics and fiber to condiments used with burgers and hot dogs.
Fermentation, in addition to generating additional nutrients, also boosts bioavailability. Making something more “bioavailable” means making the nutrients more available for your body to absorb.
Fermentation also removes anti-nutrients or toxins. Humans cannot eat raw soybeans because of their antinutrients, but when fermented into soy sauce, miso and natto, they are perfectly safe to consume even when not cooked because of fermentation.
For dairy processors, fermentation is a natural way to reduce the amount of lactose in milk. The resulting whey and kefir are suitable for lactose intolerant people and for people minding their sugar intake.
Fermentation even plays a role in beauty care, as it pre-digests materials and makes nutrients easier to absorb. Fermented ingredients such as sea kelp, black soy and olive leaf extract can enhance the appeal of gel cleansers, exfoliating peels, serums, topical creams and brightening masks. Zinc, magnesium and copper, when fermented in yeast, form mineral peptides which penetrate the skin for increased product efficacy.
Fermentation could be a veritable boon for many store brands categories, given the current demand for “cleaner” consumer packaged goods and products that offer benefits while doing no harm.
For PLMA Live! I am Dr. Kantha Shelke.