Fermented foods have gone through a process of lacto-fermentation in which natural bacteria feed on the sugar and starch in the food, creating lactic acid. The process does not only preserve the food but also creates beneficial enzymes, B-vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and various strains of probiotics.
According to Dr Denis Katanku Musoga, a nutritionist at the Uganda Heart Institute, fermented foods contain live microorganisms that are helpful for improved immunity, aiding digestion, better weight management, cardiovascular health and glucose metabolism.
“Fermentation makes digestion of some foods easier. Yoghurt, for instance is made by fermenting milk and the probiotics help digest some of the lactose (milk sugar). People who are lactose intolerant may find it hard to digest milk but can take yoghurt because the lactose is broken down,” he says.
Better food absorption
Since fermented foods introduce bacterial in the digestive system, having proper balance of gut bacteria and enough digestive enzymes helps you absorb more of the nutrients in the foods you eat. Lilian Nyanzi, a nutritionist at Neulife Medical Centre in Bweyogerere, Kampala, recommends that you incorporate such foods in your diet and use it interchangeably with normal food to dodge using supplements and vitamins.
“Fermentation increases the availability of vitamins and minerals for our bodies to absorb. Boosting the beneficial bacteria in your gut promotes their ability to manufacture B vitamins and synthesize vitamin K,” she says.
A healthy balance of gut bacteria also plays a role in moderating inflammation and diets containing fermented foods may reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, helping to reduce chronic diseases such as arthritis, fibrosis, or depression.
Some natural compounds that interfere with the absorption of nutrients can be removed by fermentation. Phytic acid, for example, which is found in legumes and seeds, binds minerals such as iron and zinc, reducing their absorption when eaten. However, the phytic acid in soy can be broken down during fermentation so the minerals become available in tempeh.
The gut is lined with neurons that influence our emotions and feelings. Serotin, a neurotransmitter involved in mood control is made in the gut. Probiotic bacteria found in fermented foods contribute to a healthy gut, they are also linked to good moods.
Fermented food is vulnerable to contamination since the fermentation process requires high manpower as well as constant monitoring. Ensure to use the correct equipment and store your foods at the correct temperature.
“Homemade versions can contain greater numbers and varieties of beneficial bacteria but be careful because they can also contain harmful bacteria, particularly if they are not produced or stored correctly,” Dr Katanku says.
Sauerkraut: Easy to make at home, this fermented cabbage dish is high in fibre, as well as various B vitamins.
Kimchi: Spicier than sauerkraut, kimchi is also a form of fermented cabbage and other vegetables. It contains vitamins A, B1, B2 and C and minerals such as iron, calcium and selenium
Tempeh: another version of fermented soy beans, tempeh is a rich protein source so a good choice for vegetarians
Bread: Some breads are made from dough that is fermented.