From gherkins, cabbage and garlic, to kimchi, kefir and kombucha, fermented foods are having a moment. At first glance, leaving foods to ferment in their juices may not seem so appetizing. And yet, packed with probiotics, these foodstuffs can boost our gut flora and our health thanks to their micro-organisms.
They have taken restaurant menus, small food stores and even social media by storm. On TikTok, for example, the fermented food trend is riding high, counting over 253,000 views, and with many user accounts sharing tips, tricks and recipes. The most basic way to get started is to peel any vegetable, put it in a jar, add some salt or some yeast, and leave it to ferment for three weeks at room temperature before eating. And, as an added bonus, the action of bacteria even makes some vegetables change color. Garlic, for example, turns green! Yum!
Fridges and preserves largely put paid to other ways of preserving foods ... until our diets were enriched with exotic foodstuffs like kimchi, a Korean condiment made with chili pepper and vegetables soaked in brine, the tea-based fermented drink, kombucha, or its Caucasian cousin, kefir. Sought-after by foodies, these dishes and drinks have led to renewed interest in fermentation.
Fermenting foods is all about preserving "good" bacteria, rather than the "bad" bacteria that break down foods. So, rather than rotting, the foodstuff -- deprived of oxygen -- develops nutritional virtues that are beneficial for gut flora and rich in probiotics.
Fermented foods, health heroes?
Much research has been done on the beneficial effects of fermented foods. According to one study, of 26,000 people age 44 to 74 over a 12-year period (" Dairy products and its association with incidence of cardiovascular disease: The Malmö diet and cancer cohort "), regular consumption of fermented milk may offer protection against cardiovascular disease. A separate study ( Fermented kimchi reduces body weight and improves metabolic parameters in overweight and obese patients ), found that eating lacto-fermented foods could help reduce cholesterol and blood sugar in overweight people.
Jars at the ready!