One of the most exciting nutritional topics is the gut and how it can affect literally every part of our wellness. The gut microbiome is made up of trillions of micro-organisms, mainly bacteria, that inhabit our gastrointestinal tract. It has been said humans contain more bacterial cells than any other cells in our body – so we must feed that bacteria properly if we want to remain healthy. It is said that most diseases start in the gut. Therefore, we must strive to maintain a balance of these gut bacteria. Enter, fermented foods.
Fermentation is an anaerobic process in which microorganisms like yeast and bacteria break down food components (e.g. sugars such as glucose) into other products (e.g. organic acids, gases or alcohol). Fermented food and beverages are generally defined as products made by microbial organisms and enzymatic conversions of major and minor food component. Fermented foods are full of probiotics that aid in digestive and overall health. Fermented foods are therefore crucial to our 21st diet that is heavy on processed foods that contain too much sugar, salt, saturated fats etc, which wreck our gut microbiome.
Ancient cultures relied heavily on fermented foods because of the preservation implications. Wine, Beer, Yogurt are probably the most common fermented foods. Other well known fermented foods are sourdough bread, raw cocoa and chocolate. But there’s a plethora of foods and drinks that you can add to your diet to increase the diversity of your microbiota.
Examples of Fermented Foods in Different Countries:
Kenya – these include non-alcoholic cereal-based beverages such as porridges (uji and kirario), fermented milk products (kule naoto, mursik, amabere amaruranu, and suusa), alcoholic beverages from maize and/ or sorghum or millet malt (busaa), fermented fruit mashes/ wine (mnazi and muratina), and distilled spirits (chan’gaa).
Africa (Various) – Injera (Ethiopia) flatbread mainly using Teff Flour, Gari (West Africa) a pounded firm mash from cassava tubers, Kisra (Sudan) flatbread from sorghum and Umqombothi (South Africa) a beer made from maize (corn), maize malt, sorghum malt, yeast and water. Do you remember Yvonne Chaka Chaka’s song about this?
India – Dosa, made from rice flour and black lentils; Dhokla, made from rice and chickpea splits, Idli made from rice, black lentil and fenugreek seeds, dahi (curd) and Lassi both made from milk
Japan – Miso paste made from soyabeans, Amazake drink from rice, Natto made from soybeans fermented with Bacillus subtilis var. natto
Korea – Kimchi made primarily from cabbage, Gochujang made from red chili, glutinous rice and soybean.
Europe (Various) – Kefir beverage made from yeast and bacteria cultures added to milk or water kefir grains that are added to sugared water to create a fizzy beverage, Kombucha drink made from black tea and sugar, Sauerkraut from salted cabbage, Kvass beverage made from stale rye bread.
What fermented foods are your favorite?