Food fermentation is an ancient process in which food is exposed to bacteria and yeast for preservation and flavor enhancement. “It is a process whereby microbes turn the stuff of one generation of plants and animals into food for the next generation of plants and animals (Cox, 1).” Beneficial microorganisms eat the natural carbohydrates, producing alcohol and carbon dioxide. Fermentation is generally considered a positive occurrence. Science of fermentation is called zymurgy. Examples of fermented food include chocolate, kefir, yogurt, kvass, kombucha, sauerkraut, wine, beer, kimchee, miso, tempeh, sour dough bread and many others.
Fermented foods are rich in enzymes the body needs to breakdown food. These enzymes make it easier for the body to digest food. Because fermented foods are already partially broken down, it is easier for the body to extract all the vitamins and minerals from the ferment. Fermentation decreases the anti-nutrients in grains and breaks down lactose in dairy products, increasing their digestibility. They are also high in B vitamins and full of probiotics. Fermented vegetables show an increase in vitamin A and C. Fermented foods are powerful chelators, drawing toxins and metals from the body. Not only are fermented foods loaded with beneficial bacteria that improve your gut health but fermentation also increases the time before food spoils.
Recommendations for how many fermented foods to consume a day vary. A general rule of thumb, suggests starting with about ¼-1/2 cup of fermented foods daily and then gradually increasing your consumption to include ferments with each meal. A gradually increase in fermented foods is advised to allow the body to adjust the new microorganisms, enzymes and probiotics. Using different types of fermented food throughout the day insures that you are exposed to a variety of probiotics, microorganisms and beneficial enzymes.