Everything You Need to Know About Fermented Foods
Fermented foods have boomed in popularity in recent years and have been praised for their ‘super-food’-like qualities. This ties in with gut-health trends which have fascinated users on social media and have become a big topic of discussion within the health and wellness space.
What are fermented foods?
Fermentation is the process of using microorganisms to create chemical changes within foods which alter their texture and taste. There are thousands of fermented foods across hundreds of world cuisines, each with varying processing and nutritional profile.
Some examples of fermented foods include:
Miso paste: Made from soybeans and a great source of copper! (1)
Sourdough bread: Lactic acid and alcoholic fermentation occur when making sourdough
Kimchi: This traditional Korean fermented cabbage is a great source of Vitamins A, B & C
Kefir: A fermented dairy product, high in calcium and protein
It’s also possible to ferment a range of fruits and vegetables to preserve them and ensure a longer shelf-life. A common misconception about fermented foods is that they’re the same as pickled foods, but this isn’t the case. Both are types of preservation, but pickling involves soaking food in acid (such as vinegar) whereas fermentation doesn't require this step. There are also plenty of fermented beverages such as kombucha, wine, cider and sake.
What are the health benefits?
Fermented foods have a number of associated health benefits such as a reduced risk of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and inflammation (2). Different types of fermented foods contain their own population of microorganisms and once we consume them, some may remain alive by the time they reach the gut microbiome (3). It’s thought that fermented foods can impact our microbiome on both a long and short-term basis. What’s so important about the gut microbiome? Our microbiome is completely unique to us, originally determined by our DNA but then evolves with environmental factors, such as our diet. (4). These tiny microbiota can help to promote a healthy immune system and synthesise a number of vitamins such as Vitamin K.
Should I be eating fermented foods?
The short answer is, if you enjoy them, then yes! Fermented food products can be an excellent addition to your diet for all the reasons we’ve outlined above. However there are some instances where it may be best to limit your intake. Histamine tends to be high in fermented foods, which for most people is no problem, however others may struggle to digest it. Side effects such as bloating and gas may occur when you try a type of fermented food for the first time or try the fermentation process at home. For the majority of people, however, adding a serving of kimchi to your evening meal or a portion of kefir with breakfast is a great way to introduce variety into your diet.
If you have any concerns regarding your overall gut health, or a specific gastrointestinal issue, a dietitian will be able to help you. Please feel free to reach out to the CityDietitians team by contacting us via the website or sending us an email at email@example.com.