Fermented foods have been a part of the human diet for tens of thousands of years. New evidence shows that these fermented foods have played a large part in maintaining our health and survival as a species.
As any first year Florida culinary arts school student can tell you, fermentation is a process where microorganisms are added to foods to convert carbohydrates into alcohols and other acids. Two of the most common microorganisms are yeast, found in most leavened breads and alcohols, and lactobacilli, found in yogurt and other non-alcoholic fermented foods.
Every culture around the world has at least several types of fermented foods. Although fermented foods play a much smaller roll in modern diets, chances are that you’ve had some recently. You don’t think so? Take a list at this partial list of popular fermented foods:
- Soy Sauce
- And many, many more …
You probably had several of those the last time you went to your favorite sushi restaurant. Or maybe you’ve enjoyed some baking classes where you learned about the joys of making pastries with sour cream, buttermilk, or yogurt. Either way, you probably consume more fermented foods than you first thought.
Health Benefits of Fermented Foods
Researchers have found many positive health affects of fermented foods, but the two most important are 1) fermentation helps make certain foods easier to digest, and 2) fermentation can create new beneficial nutrients in foods.
Many humans lack the enzymes necessary to break down the lactose in dairy products. The lactobacilli in yogurt, sour cream, and kefir break it down and make these dairy products enjoyable for the lactose intolerant. Fermented foods can also remove harmful anti-nutrients from foods. The lectins, gluten, and phytates in grains can be greatly reduced by the fermentation process.
Vitamin K2 – essential to bone, cardiovascular, and dental health – is a byproduct of the internal fermentation of grass in grass-fed cows. That K2 can then be passed to us in the form of raw milk, butter, and liver from these cows.
An additional benefit is introduction of beneficial probiotic bacteria to the digestive system. Probiotics can aid in many aspects of digestive health, including cancer prevention, relief from lactose intolerance, and prevention of inflammatory bowl disease. They have also been linked to increased weight loss and more effective weight management.
With all of its rich history and scientific evidence showing its positive dietary affects, you should strongly consider eating more fermented foods. They are literally alive with flavor.
This article is presented by Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Orlando. Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Orlando offers culinary arts and pâtisserie and baking training programs in Orlando, Florida. To learn more about the class offerings, please visit Chefs.edu/Orlando for more information.
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