Humans have been eating fermented foods for most of our history, starting with fruit dropping to the ground or leftover porridges that began to bubble overnight. Fermentation was a way to preserve food by increasing its acidity, reducing its oxygen content, and taking advantage of natural anti-microbial agents formed in the process. Our “battle for preservation” has favored a human digestive system that can live symbiotically with our gut bacteria and allow us to digest more diverse foods.
It’s almost preposterous to consider yourself as one individual when there are thousands of organisms living inside us, aiding with many of our metabolic processes. Up until the widespread use of refrigeration, fermented foods made up a much greater portion of our diet. I can’t help to wonder about the proliferation of dietary allergies in the face of declining food diversity.
What benefits do fermented foods provide?
“Gut biome” is a hot term these days. This refers to the mixture of organisms living within us, aiding in digestion. Each of these bacteria provides different enzymes, amino acids, phenols and more that benefit us in various ways. These are my favorite:
Increased Nutrition Fermented foods can reduce the anti-nutrition of a food, for example, by breaking down phytic acid in grains, which reduces the absorption of minerals.
Antimicrobial Properties Many of these gut microbes have antifungal/bacterial properties that protect against opportunistic invaders
The Gut-Brain Connection More evidence keeps appearing for the positive benefit of gut health on your mood and cognitive functions.
How should I get my probiotics?
Our gut biome is in constant flux based on our diet. Consumption of probiotic products does have an effect on the gut, but the organisms do not appear to permanently colonize the digestive tract. Instead, the focus should be on the regular incorporation of diverse fermented foods into your long-term diet.
Here’s my favorite fermented foods!
-sauerkraut & kimchi
-yogurt & cheese
-sausages like salami
-soy products like tofu & tempeh
Ever want to talk fermentation? I’ve been brewing beer, baking bread, and fermenting vegetables for over a decade. Let’s chat!