By: Arlo Taylor
It is common for the average person to visualize stir fried vegetable, Greek salad with balsamic vinaigrette dressing, quinoa and baked sweet potato when someone mentions healthy food. While those are very healthy choices, but there are other foods that may not look as appealing but has amazing health benefits. Fermented food, at first glance, may look weird and smell unusually strong but how much it helps the body is incredible.
Fermentation in food is basically using live healthy bacteria to convert carbohydrates into organic acids. It is the same process that turns milk into yogurt or kefir, produces beer, leavens bread. Fermentation is used for many reasons but the main purpose is to produce highly nutritious food.1
The precise nutritional benefits are not exactly shown but studies prove that adding fermented food into one’s diet improves weight maintenance, lowers risk of diabetes, intestinal problems, and heart disease. Some data even show that fermented food consumption alters brain activity which affects mood and cognitive thinking.2
Certain fermented foods and their health benefits were researched and scientists found positive results. For example, Kimchi, a common Korean dish decreased insulin resistance, and increased insulin sensitivity. Fermented soy products, commonly eaten in Japan led to improved total cholesterol, especially lowering low density lipoprotein (LDL).2
Kefir, a drink originating from Eurasia, is trending especially in the United States and is now found in almost every supermarket. Kefir is basically fermented milk that is made using certain type of bacteria and yeasts. The difference in the microorganisms turn milk into kefir instead of yogurt or cheese.3
Companies want to bring the best product out for their customers. In order for kefir to be healthy, the bacteria in the drink must survive being in the drink for long periods of time. A study done on freezing kefir (because this is required for safety and longevity reasons in most commercial foods) showed that freezing traditionally made kefir did not decrease the number of bacteria in the drink.3 This is important for food industries because other products such as kombucha tea and the like, can be sold without losing the health benefits produced by fermentation.
As a person growing up in Japan, eating fermented food was the norm. The food itself tasted great especially with rice, noodles or other ethnic dishes. Korean and Chinese people eat plenty of fermented food as well and Asians are known to live a very long life.
One common problem that occur in countries like Japan and Korea is that many fermented foods use salt and spicy ingredients as part of the fermentation process. This means that eating too much can be negative to one’s health. Diseases like hypertension and stomach cancer or even just ulcers can appear from overeating. The best thing to do to benefit from fermented food is to eat in moderation. It is worth adding to a weekly diet routine. Fermented food has been trending for a while now and it is an amazing trend to follow.
- Wikipedia. Fermentation in food processing. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermentation_in_food_processing. Accessed January 15th, 2016
- Maria L Marco; Dustin Heeney; Sylvie Binda; Christopher J Cifelli, Paul D Cotter; Benoit Foligné; Michael Gänzle; Remco Kort; Gonca Pasin; Anne Pihlanto; Eddy J Smid; Robert Hutkins. Health benefits of fermented foods: microbiota and beyond. Current Opinion in Biotechnology. Apr 2017, vol 44 pg 94–102.
- O’Brien K V; Aryana K J; Prinyawiwatkul W; Ordonez K M Carabante; Boeneke C A. Short communication: The effects of frozen storage on the survival of probiotic microorganisms found in traditionally and commercially manufactured kefir. Jpurnal of Dairy Science. Sep 2016, vol 99(9) pg 7043-7048.