Fermented foods – from kombucha to kimchi

One of the big food trends for 2020 is fermentation. But what exactly is fermentation, and why is it such a huge trend for 2020? I’ve got all of the answers to these questions, as well as information about the potential health benefits of fermented foods.


What is fermentation?

According to Healthline, ‘fermentation is a natural process through which microorganisms like yeast and bacteria convert carbs — such as starch and sugar — into alcohol or acids.’ The alcohol or acid act as a natural preservative and give fermented foods a tart flavour. This bacteria is known as probiotics, which can help keep your gut healthy.

Fermentation is an old process – it was discovered in 1857 by a scientist called Louis Pasteur, who proved that living yeast can transform glucose into ethanol. He also discovered that there are two types of fermentation -alcoholic fermentation occurs by the action of yeast and lactic acid fermentation by the action of bacteria. However, fermentation existed long before then, particularly for beverages. Fermented drinks have been documented in China since 7000–6600 BCE, 3150 BCE in Egypt, and 6000 BCE in Georgia.


What exactly are fermented foods?

It’s important to realise that not all pickled foods are fermented. Although products such as pickles are preserved in acidic liquid such as vinegar, this does not ferment them. If you’re looking for fermented foods, make sure that the label mentions live bacteria, fermentation, or probiotics. Common fermented foods include kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, tempeh, miso, and kombucha. Alcohol such as wine and beer are also fermented.

Kombucha and kimchi are particularly popular at the moment. Kombucha is a sweetened black tea that is fermented to promote the growth of bacteria. This bacteria turns the sugar in the tea into alcohol – kombucha therefore does contain some alcohol, but not enough to cause intoxication. It can also be infused with different flavours One company that makes this drink in the UK is Clever Kombucha, who have flavours such as lemon lavender and lime sea salt.

Clever Kombucha

Kimchi is a spicy fermented vegetable dish. There are hundred of types available, but the most common are made of salted napa cabbage and spices, which are mixed with other vegetables like radish, onion, and garlic. It can be eaten alone, but it is more commonly added to rice, noodle and soup dishes.


Why are they so popular?

There are a few reasons why products such as these are becoming increasingly popular. Fermented foods come from all across the world – for example, kimchi is originally from Korea, tempeh is from Indonesia, and kombucha is believed to be from China. As the world has become increasingly globalised, we have come to expect access to international cuisines, as well as more niche products such as fermented foods. Furthermore, over the past few decades, health foods have also become increasingly popular. As fermented foods are believed to have a multitude of health benefits


What health benefits do they have?

According to the Harvard Health Blog:

…health experts these days [believe fermented foods] may help strengthen your gut microbiome—the 100 trillion or so bacteria and microorganisms that live in your digestive tract. Researchers are beginning to link these tiny creatures to all sorts of health conditions from obesity to neurodegenerative diseases.Saucy Dressings best food and drink blog

For example, some believe that fermented foods are easier to digest and absorb. For example, fermentation breaks down the lactose in milk to simpler sugars – glucose and galactose – which, if you are lactose intolerant, can make products such as yogurt and cheese potentially easier to digest. Furthermore, a large proportion of the immune system is housed in the gut. By consuming probiotic-rich foods, you are supporting the gut lining as a natural barrier, making the immune system more robust.

However, it’s important to make sure that fermented foods fit into your diet. Some fermented foods, such as pickles, tend to be high in sodium. People concerned about their sodium intake, especially those with diabetes, should check the sodium content in any purchased fermented foods. Furthermore, some yoghurt and kombucha products can be high in sugar.


How can I make them myself?

Luckily enough, fermented foods are very easy to make at home. All you need are some sterilised jars, vegetables, and a bit of patience. For detailed instructions on how to ferment kefir, sourdough and more, head to Cultures for Health.


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