Fermented foods have become all the rage as of late, due in large part to a lot of research that has come out recently, highlighting the many health benefits of fermented foods. According to newhope.com, there are over 2,000 nutritional and recipe books about fermented foods listed on Amazon. Fermented foods are not a new thing, however; they have deep roots in cultures all over the world that date back centuries.
Fermentation originated in the Fertile Crescent area of the Middle East, and can be traced back to about 6,000 BC. Nearly every culture since then has included at least one fermented food in its culinary heritage including beer, dairy products, vegetables, fruits, and even meats. For our ancestors, fermented food was a necessity. It was a method of preserving food since they didn’t have refrigeration. It is also important to remember that our ancestors did not know as much about fermented foods as we do today. However, they did know that fermented foods lasted longer, tasted better and made them feel better.
Here are just a few examples of fermented foods based on continent or geographic area of origin.
Kimchi (fermented cabbage and spices), amazake (fermented rice beverage), soy sauce (fermented soybeans), kefir (fermented milk beverage), kaanji (fermented carrot and mustard beverage) and dosa (fermented black lentil crepe).
Fermented millet (small seeded grass) porridge, garri (cassava tubers), injera (sourdough flatbread) and lamoun makbouss (pickled lemons).
Sourdough bread, cultured milk, chicha (fermented maize beverage), kombucha (fermented tea) and Tabasco.
Pickles, yogurts, lamoun makbouss and torshi (fermented mixed vegetables).
Rakfisk (salted, fermented trout), sauerkraut (fermented cabbage), mead and crème fraiche.
Poi (taro plant), sago (starch from tropical palm stems), kaanga pirau (fermented corn) and bagoong (fermented krill).
Why Eat Fermented Foods
There are lots of benefits your body gains from eating and drinking fermented or cultured foods (fermented and cultured foods offer different benefits to your body, but that is a whole other post!). In general, fermented foods can help promote digestive health and systematic wellness, proper functioning of the immune system and help restore the proper balance of bacteria in our gastrointestinal tract, and in our antiseptic world, we could all use some beneficial bacteria in our body. Think of fermented foods as partially digested foods. An example is that many people have problems digesting the lactose in milk. When milk is fermented and becomes kefir or yogurt, the lactose becomes partially broken down and is easier to digest. Lactic-acid fermented foods, such as dill pickles and sauerkraut, are rich in enzymes that help breakdown the food we eat and help our body absorb the nutrients we rely on to stay healthy. So, needless to say, when our digestion is functioning properly and absorbing the nutrients we need, our immune system is happy and ready to wage war against illness and disease.
With a wide variety of options, you’re sure to find a fermented food or beverage that satisfies your taste buds. It’s time to see just how tasty fermented foods are, and how good they make your body feel!