Author – Dr. Kevin Arlett
Fermented foods include some well know items of Australian’s diets such as cheese, yoghurt, beer etc, but also some other fascinating foods such as sauerkraut (fermented cabbage), Kimchi (Korean fermented vegetables), pickled cucumbers and Kefir (a fermented milk drink originally from the Caucasus Mountains).
Fermentation is the process whereby carbohydrates and sugars are converted to alcohol and Carbon Dioxide or organic acids. This happens by the action of yeasts and bacteria. This process has been used as a form of food preservation for thousands of years. There is even evidence that the early Egyptian civilisations were fermenting alcoholic beverages, and even in earlier civilisations. During Mediaeval Times, water was just too poisonous to drink, so everyone drank ale or other fermented drinks. Foods have been fermented and preserved with salt for many years as well, with Roman records showing a version of sauerkraut was being made even then
Now we are not using fermentation solely for preservation, but for giving variety in flavour and for the beneficial probiotics that we can eat/drink as part of this process.
The probiotics are felt to replenish our gut bacteria and assist in digestion. Fermented foods are often quicker to prepare as well. Usually people will use one of the milk products (yoghurt or Kefir) as a source of probiotics, but sauerkraut eaten raw is also a good source of these, however, not to everyone’s taste.
Sourdough bread also relies on fermentation and the so called “Starter” is a mixture of flour and water which has naturally occurring yeasts that colonise and start to ferment it. This can be quite a vigorous reaction and fascinating to watch. Every part of the world has slightly different naturally occurring yeasts, so sourdough bread can taste different depending on where you create your Starter.
Have you tried fermented foods before? Sometimes it takes a while to get used to eating/drinking them, but almost everyone feels better for having some of these in their diets
© Townsville & Suburban Medical Practice, 2015.
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