Fermentation has been in practice since thousands of years as a food preservation technique even before canning and freezing techniques were introduced. But now, it is used predominantly as an important source of creating healthy bacterial colonies. We enjoy eating kimchi and nattō because of Koreans and Japanese who are masters in this field.
It is also not surprising to see thousands of people turning up at fermentation festivals worldwide to learn the tactic to prepare sauerkraut or just to taste the refreshing kombucha tea. According to one of the latest surveys on fermented foods, these are the latest craze in plant-based eating.
Fermentation can be the result of bacteria or yeast. Yogurt and cheese are examples of bacterial fermentation while beer, wine and rise in bread dough are results of yeast fermentation.
Fermented Foods are Selling Like Hotcakes
Popular and widely known fermented foods include:
Sauerkraut: Having its roots in Germany, sauerkraut is finely chopped cabbage fermented by lactic acid bacteria. It has a soft texture, sour flavor and long shelf life because of the bacterial fermentation of the sugars in the cabbage.
Kimchi: A Korean staple, kimchi is a side dish made using mixed vegetables and seasonings such as chili peppers, ginger or garlic. Many variations are available based mostly on cabbages, radish, spring onion or cucumber.
Kombucha: A Japanese tea made from kombucha, a yeast which is commonly mistaken for a mushroom. This drink is made by adding bacteria and yeast culture to tea, sugar and other ingredients.
Tempeh: Indonesia is the proud owner of this plant-based protein made from soybeans. It has a nutty flavor and is used as a meat replacement for vegetarians.
Miso: Produced by fermenting soybeans with salt and koji (a fungus), miso is a thick paste used as a seasoning for sauces, spreads and soups.
Kefir: This is a fermented milk drink with a sour taste prepared by immunizing cow, goat or sheep milk with kefir grains.
Health Claims of Fermented Foods
While fermented foods are hyped with health claims calling the bacteria in these foods as ‘probiotics’, only few strains of bacteria found in high doses in yogurts and supplements have passed human testing to be tagged as ‘good for health’. Read more on probiotics from the website www.firsteatright.com. Although fermented foods may have health benefits, they need to be thoroughly tested and this process is expensive.
Claims that state that fermented foods can cure baldness, ease stomach discomfort and control blood sugar levels in diabetic patients are not completely true as there is limited scientific evidence to support these assertions.
Don’t overloading your tummy with fermented foods as you might end up with diarrhea, bloating and even rise in blood pressure levels as some foods contain high salt levels. Keep it simple, eat in balanced quantities.
AVOID FRAUD. EAT SMART.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.