The Case for Fermented Foods

I am convinced that we should be eating more fermented food. I mean, how could humankind eat fermented food for 10,000+ years and then stop in one generation? And now probiotic pills and food additives are supposed to fill the gap?  Gimme a break! Eat fermented food.

Fermentation is an ancient method of preserving food that predates recorded time. Fermentation introduces essential microorganisms into food and then into the GI tract. During food fermentation, bacteria or yeasts break down carbohydrates into easy-to-digest carbon dioxide, alcohols and organic acids. When the living bacteria enter our bodies and reproduce, they become our intestinal flora. (I call it my internal compose pile.) In the gut, the bacteria digest food to make it more absorbable. For example, fermentation changes indigestible lactose into digestible lactic acid, and in grains, fermentation destroys phytic acid, a substance that blocks the absorption of calcium, iron, zinc, and magnesium. The bacteria in the gut actually produce nutrients as the food is digested; B-vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin K, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids are synthesized during the fermentation process. And in addition to their digestive benefits, the bacteria confer primary immunity all throughout the body.

Any Food Can Be Fermented

Familiar fermented foods include brined vegetables, like sauerkraut, pickled cucumbers, beets, onions and garlic, kimchi, capers, and olives, and pickled meats, fish and eggs; dairy ferments, such as yogurt, cheese, kefir, sour cream, and buttermilk; the bean ferments, miso and tempeh; fermented grain products, including beer and porridge; fruit juices fermented to wine, cider and vinegar; honey mead and the fermented tea kombucha – plus, all sorts of foods that we’ve never heard of from faraway places. To get the benefits, fermented foods should not be pasteurized.

Fermented Foods ARE Prebiotics

Read this powerful 2007 statement from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in their Report of the FAO Technical Meeting on PREBIOTICS:

“…Modern day humans do not ingest sufficient quantities of lactic acid bacteria or their growth stimulants including non-digestible carbohydrates. In addition, there is a growing recognition that events taking place in the intestine and influenced by microbes, have major consequences for human health.”

What About Sodium?

But Mary, you might say, “What about the salt in fermented food?” Well, fresh food has very little salt, and about 75 percent or more of the sodium in the American diet is added by the food manufacturer. There is sodium benzoate, sodium propionate, sodium nitrate, and 50 other sodium-based additives, not counting sodium chloride, table salt, in processed food. If we didn’t eat processed food, then we’d have room for the sodium in fermented food.

Your thoughts: Do you eat fermented foods?  Do you plan to start?

7 thoughts on “The Case for Fermented Foods

  1. Pingback: Why Fermented Foods and Gut Bacteria Matter to Our Health

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    • You know, I’m concerned about the sodium in some fermented foods too, since as an RD, I’ve been preaching against excess sodium for years. But in actuality, Americans get around 75-85% of their sodium from processed food, and so if we only ate fresh food, dried food and fermented food, a healthy person probably wouldn’t overdo his sodium intake. Still, I’m not suggesting that you tempt your ‘salt tooth’! Thanks for commenting. I like your blog, http://YeastOrFamine.wordpress.com :)

  4. Good one! Read Erik’s link, “Fermentation, Civilization: How History and Human Thirst Go Hand in Hand”

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