Years ago, before the invention of refrigeration and canned goods, people fermented food to help preserve it and improve its flavour. Foods and beverages that have undergone controlled microbial growth and fermentation are termed fermented foods.
Recently people have begun opting for fermented foods not only for their unique and desirable taste, aroma and texture but also for their overall nutritional value. Fermented foods carry additional health benefits in the form of probiotics and prebiotics. Probiotics also known as the “good” bacteria help break down carbohydrates, secrete antimicrobial proteins that kill off bad bacteria, synthesize vitamins- B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, protest against inflammation in the gut and restore the balance of gut microbes.
So if you’re looking to give your gut the love and care it deserves incorporate the following fermented foods and beverages in your diet.
Did you know that yoghurt, a staple in every Indian household, is a fermented food? It is made by adding good bacteria- streptococcus thermophilus and lactobacillus bulgaricus- into heated milk. The bacteria thickens the lactic acid present in the milk to produce the ever so delicious yoghurt. Garnish your favourite savoury dishes with it, or make a fulfilling smoothie with yoghurt, fruits, greens and chia seeds.
It's nothing but drinkable yoghurt that contains different types of beneficial bacteria and is much more nutritious. The probiotics it possesses helps break down lactose, making it easier for digestion for even those suffering from lactose intolerance. Enjoy this tangy beverage on its own or use it to give your smoothies, and blended drinks a boost.
This well-known ingredient must have caught your eye on menus at sushi restaurants. Miso is a traditional Japanese paste made from fermenting soya beans with salt and koji- a type of fungus. It is a complete protein that stimulates the digestive system, strengthens the immune system and reduces the risk of multiple types of cancer. Available in both sweet and well as salty flavours, it's the ideal ingredient to add to your salad dressings, soup and dipping sauce.
Typically used in burgers or nuggets, tempeh is the perfect plant-based alternative to animal-based protein. It is a fermented soy product that has a firmer texture and a slightly nuttier flavour profile. Its semi-dull flavours make it the perfect canvas for a variety of spices, seasonings or sauces. It is a bountiful source of prebiotics and essential amino acids, making it a complete source of vegetarian protein.
You can find it at just about every supermarket near you. Contrary to popular belief sourdough is not a flavour, but the process where wild yeast and friendly bacteria break down gluten and sugar to produce proteins, vitamins and minerals. The starches and grains of the bread are pre-disintegrated, making it easier to digest and a much healthier option than any processed white or brown bread. Its moist and fluffy texture will make for the perfect bread to create sandwiches with or to partner with your favourite soups and pasta.
It is a popular condiment made from shredded cabbage and fermented lactic acid bacteria. Low in calories, sauerkraut contains plenty of fibre, vitamin C and vitamin K. This easy to make topping can be made at home by combining shredded cabbage with some salt, and leaving it in a container for at least a week.
Sauerkraut’s Korean relative, kimchi is a fermented dish traditionally made with cabbages, radishes and scallions. It is especially effective in lowering cholesterol and reducing insulin resistance. Easy to make and customise, kimchi can be eaten straight out of the jar or with rice, pancakes, noodles, stew and eggs.
A list of must-try fermented foods is incomplete without the presently most popular beverage- kombucha. It is a fermented tea that is fizzy, tart, sweet and flavourful. Made from either green tea or black tea, it is typically flavoured with fruits and/or herbs. The elixir claims to improve digestive function, gut health, eliminate chemicals and toxins from the body and boost immunity. Add it to your salsa, salad, smoothies, cocktails or better yet sip on it as it is to savour its complex flavour profile.