What are Fermented Foods?

When we talk about fermented foods, we mean those that have been usefully or positively altered by microbes, usually with a little help from us.

If you want to get a bit more specific, here’s a slightly more detailed definition:

“Fermentation is a controlled process where microbes use carbohydrates to produce a range of useful end products, including lactic acid, alcohol and acetic acid, which can also preserve and enhance food and make new flavours”

In ancient times, it was soon realised that fermentation, especially where lactic acid was involved, was an excellent way of preserving foods. Interestingly here in the UK, we mostly missed out on this information all together, using vinegar (acetic acid) and sugar to make our preserves. Still it’s never too late to learn!

There is a huge list of food that involve fermentation in their production: wine and beer, bread, vinegar, chocolate, salami, kefir, yoghurt, miso, tempeh, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, olives, kvass.

When consumed “live”, without killing off the microbes, fermented foods contain “probiotic” bacteria and yeasts (microbes which confer a health benefit on the consumer). Unfortunately, many of the foods in which fermentation plays a role are pasteurised or cooked before we eat them, so beer, wine, salami, tempeh and chocolate don’t really count.

Another benefit of live fermented foods is that they are nutritionally enhanced compared to the original starting material – for example yoghurt and milk kefir contain immune-system-stimulating short chain peptides, whilst kimchi and sauerkraut contain a plethora of vitamins and bioactive compounds that our bodies need. Oh, and they manage to be delicious too!

It is a sad but true fact that more than half of the calories in the average British diet come from ultra-processed foods.*SOURCE It’s definitely time to change this and to create some new family traditions – and if we can’t make our own let’s borrow some!