Let’s Talk Fermented Foods

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The word “fermented” is very easy to turn your nose up at. A common misconception is that fermented products have a funky smell and appear to be past their sell-by-date. The word may even be reminiscent of watching poor celebrities on “I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here” having to eat a fermented ostrich egg…not something we’d particularly like on toast! However, these celebrities haven’t got it half bad as fermented foods are considered delicacies in many cultures and cuisines. In fact, they have been thriving in consumers’ lives due to their beneficial properties and, more specifically, probiotic properties. 

Fermented foods origin

Fermentation used to be the process for preserving foods and has been around for centuries. However, more recently, fermentation is being used to glamify our daily essentials, bringing them an added “health kick”. Think of the bog standard pizza…well, now you can get a sourdough base and guess what…it is fermented. It is becoming a growing trend and we will start to see a lot more product innovation with consumer goods and fermentation.

Fermented foods and gut health 

Fermentation is an anaerobic process where microorganisms in food e.g. yeast and bacteria, convert carbs e.g. sugar and starch, into acids or alcohol. These are what gives foods their preserving capabilities and the “sour” taste. During this process, the growth of  “healthy bacteria” or “live microorganisms” are promoted. This is where we talk about Probiotics.

To put it simply, by consuming fermented foods (aka Probiotics), large amounts of healthy, live bacteria are added to the gut which can help with a number of things. Firstly, improving digestion, by breaking down food better and enabling better nutrient absorption. Secondly, they help boost immunity, since 70% of our immune system is found in our gut. There is also plenty of research showing that probiotics can improve mental health through the Gut-Brain Axis, aid weight loss and improve heart health. Prebiotics are where people commonly get confused. These are also crucial for improving gut health by feeding these live microorganisms or healthy bacteria. This is what Aguulp for Gut does. Like watering a plant, your gut bacteria needs to be constantly fed to keep it feeling healthy and happy. 

The most common types of healthy bacteria are “Lactobacillus” and “Bifidobacterium”, however we must be aware that not ALL fermented foods contain probiotic strains. Any foods that have been pasteurized have lost their probiotic capability due to killing off the healthy bacteria during the process. Processed foods have their bad street cred for a reason!

Types of foods: 

Let’s take Apple Cider Vinegar. Apple cider vinegar is made from, simply, apples and water. When left for a long period, bacteria converts the sugar in the apples into an alcohol which is then converted into acetic acid. Through the fermentation process, strands of “The Mother” will form which is what makes it have probiotic capabilities. However you must make sure you buy raw Apple Cider Vinegar with “The Mother” in it . Many Apple Cider Vinegars you find in the supermarket have been pasteurized which, we have learnt, kills off the healthy bacteria leaving it with little health benefits. 

  • Tip: Add a tablespoon of ACV into your glass, squeeze half a lime and pour over some tonic water (or sparkling water) and add ICE. There you have it…your very own gut-loving G&T!

Kombucha is another gut-loving consumer good which is fermented black and green tea. This is made by boiling tea, adding sugar, leaving it to cool and adding what is called a “SCOBY” standing for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast which gives it its probiotic capabilities. The bacteria and yeast in the SCOBY break down the sugar, turning it to alcohol and then into acetic acid. Not just a probiotic, Kombucha also contains powerful antioxidants which can fight off harmful bacteria. Due to its acidic nature, Kombucha is also a great non-alcoholic drink if you’re also looking to improve your gut health. 

  • Tip: Why not brew your own! Simply buy some big Kilner jars (You can find them from Amazon), get some regular black and green tea, sugar, a SCOBY starter and you’re well on your way. Your jar should then be left at room temperature away from sunlight. You can try it each week to see if it’s right for you, but typical brewing times can be between 2-4 weeks. Once you have your first Scoby, you can make countless batches as each SCOBY produces a baby SCOBY for you to use in your next one.

Kefir is another great probiotic food source. It’s name in Turkish (“keyif”) even translates as “feeling good after eating”! It is a fermented milk drink, originally made from cow or goat’s milk, however more recently, you can find it made from plant-based alternatives, such as coconut and soy. It is made by adding kefir grains (which contain microorganisms) to milk, which ferment the sugars and convert it into kefir. Like removing the SCOBY in kombucha, kefir grains are also removed to create a new batch. You can find kefir in many supermarkets, in a drinkable form but also a thicker, yoghurt consistency. 

  • Tip: Due to the kefir grains converting the lactose in milk into lactic acid, it does have a ‘sour’ taste. This may not be for everyone, so why not opt for a bio-yoghurt instead. Bio-yoghurts, or yoghurts with ‘live active cultures’ in them are just as good for nourishing your gut. These yoghurts either already have healthy bacteria in them, or have them added after pasteurization. Remember to read the labels to see if they have those ‘buzz’ words or look out for “Lactobacillus” and “Bifidobacterium” in the ingredients!

Other great sources of fermented foods which are great for gut health include; Sourdough, Sauerkraut, Kimchi, Miso, Soya Sauce and Tempeh.

https://www.heartfoundation.org.nz/about-us/news/blogs/fermented-foods-the-latest-trend

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/fermentation#bottom-line

https://theconversation.com/is-apple-cider-vinegar-really-a-wonder-food-86551

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/8-benefits-of-kombucha-tea

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/9-health-benefits-of-kefir

https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/health-benefits-kefir

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/7-benefits-of-yogurt#TOC_TITLE_HDR_5

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