1. What is a fermented food?
A fermented food or beverage is a food transformed through the controlled growth of microorganisms, such as bacteria, yeast and even certain molds. Fermented foods have been present in civilizations around the world for thousands of years, due to their ability to preserve food and produce unique flavors and palatability.
2. Are all fermented foods the same?
Fermented foods can be divided into two groups:
Those that contain live microbes when consumed: yogurt, kefir, uncooked sauerkraut, and traditional kimchi.
Those that do not contain live microbes when consumed: sourdough bread, tempeh, alcohol, such as beer and wine, as well as chocolate. Living cultures cannot survive certain cooking and heating processes so although they are delicious, those foods are not a source of live microbes.
3. What are the benefits of consuming fermented foods?
Fermentation not only gives products a unique sensory signature but can also enhance their nutritional value and digestibility in several ways. The fermentation process produces vitamins, antioxidants, and molecules that can lower blood pressure and inflammation. In fact, as we already explained in this blog, studies have shown benefits in the consumption of fermented foods for both overall and gut health.
Lactic acid bacteria (LAB) have long been used to produce fermented foods, such as yogurt or kefir. These bacteria are known to improve lactose digestion. Some LAB have been acknowledged to have probiotic properties.
4. Are fermented foods and probiotics the same?
However, did you know? Not all fermented foods qualify as probiotics, and not all probiotics take the form of fermented foods!
Fermented foods that contain specific probiotics bring about health benefits and may help increase the diversity of your gut microbiota. A recent review edited by Kevin Whelan highlights that based on scientific evidence, at present only fermented dairy foods such as yogurt and some kefirs can be considered as probiotics due to their benefits for gastrointestinal health. In contrast, evidence is missing to support the benefits for gastrointestinal health of other types of fermented products such as kombucha, sauerkraut (regardless of whether it is pasteurized or raw), tempeh, miso and kimchi.
Allured by fermented food? Any lingering questions? The GMFH team is dedicating the month of November to reveal all the secrets around fermented foods, probiotics and especially their impact on the gut microbiota and gut health. Science-backed articles, intriguing infographics and blasts on our social media will all be available to satisfy your curiosity!
Follow us and make sure you join the conversation by following the campaign hashtags #FermentedFoodsMonth and #Food4GutHealth.