What is fermentation in Food?

What is fermentation in Food?

What is fermentation in Food?

In the first instance, Hippocrates made the remark that serves as the introduction to this chapter, he may well have been alluding to the medical power of fermented foods.
Although fermentation is a relatively modern activity, it has been around for hundreds of years, making it one of the most ancient means of preserving and preparing foods.

Overall, fermentation assisted our transition from being a civilization of hunters and gatherers to one that was based on agriculture and farming techniques. People were able to build a future in one location, within a community, as a result of the invention of food preservation methods, since they no longer needed to search for food on a constant basis.

With winemaking in Iran dating back to 5400 BC, milk fermentation in Babylon around 5000 BC, lacto-fermented cabbage in China around 4000 BC, leaven (now known as yeast) to raise bread dough in Egypt around 3000 BC, and pulque (the oldest alcoholic beverage on the North American continent) in Mexico dating back to 2000 BC, fermentation has been around for a very long period of time.

For millennia, people have been aware of the health benefits of fermented foods. Fermented milk was reported to be beneficial to gastrointestinal illnesses by the Roman historian Plinio in 76 CE. It is true that the Romans consumed sauerkraut in order to benefit from the curative properties of lacto-fermented foods.

Voyagers, from the Roman emperor Tiberius in the first century CE to Captain James Cook in the late eighteenth century, relied on sauerkraut to protect their crews from certain intestinal infections and diseases, such as scurvy, which is caused by a deficiency in vitamin C. Sauerkraut is a fermented cabbage product that is fermented in a salty brine.

Because these voyageurs spread the method over the globe, lacto-fermented vegetables may be found in a variety of traditional dishes such as cabbage in Asia, chutney in India, and relish in the United States.

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Probiotics, the life force found in fermented foods, are responsible for the favorable health effects.
Probiotics, which literally means “for life,” are living bacteria that, when ingested in the right amounts, provide health benefits (more on this later).

They produce vitamins, particularly B complex vitamins like niacin, biotin, folic acid, and pyridoxine, which support and accelerate metabolism, detoxify toxins, stimulate cell development, including red blood cell proliferation, which helps avoid anemia, and improve immunological and nervous system function.

Probiotics boost enzyme synthesis, which aids in the digestion and absorption of nutrients from meals, especially proteins and lipids. They’re particularly good at pushing out harmful bacteria and so enhancing immune system response.

Fermentation is practiced all over the world.

For millennia, the technique of fermentation has been fundamental to civilizations all across the globe. Traditional fermented foods have become a staple in these various diets. Beers, wines, breads, cheeses, and vinegars are all fermented foods that people love all around the world.

Sauerkraut in Central Europe, kimchi in Korea, miso in Japan, olives and cured meats in the Mediterranean, yogurt and chutney in India, pickled herring in Scandinavia, Vegemite in Australia, tarama (fermented roe) in the Far East, and pickles and sourdough bread in the United States are just a few examples.


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Lacto-fermentation occurs when microorganisms (natural bacteria and yeasts) consume sugar and starch in food and convert it to lactic acid. There are various forms of fermentation (which I’ll go over briefly on page 7), but lacto-fermentation offers the greatest health advantages, so that’s what we’ll be focusing on in this book.

Fermentation is the anaerobic metabolic breakdown of a nutrient from a biochemical standpoint (without the use of oxygen). This decomposition yields ethanol, acids, gases, and other precursor molecules, which serve as intermediates in a series of enzymatic events that lead to a more stable or final result.

Lacto-fermentation produces useful bacteria, enzymes, vitamins, and a variety of probiotic strains (live beneficial microorganisms) in a wider sense. Food has a longer shelf life, which is an additional advantage. Fermentation, interestingly enough, isn’t just one simple process; it’s almost as varied as the foods it creates.

Classifications for Fermented Foods

Fermentation not only adds variety to a diet, but it also preserves, enriches, and detoxifies foods. Fermented foods’ good effect on your health is due to the life force—that is, living bacteria, yeasts, and molds—found in them.

The tremendous diversity of fermented foods is due to the sheer quantity and variety of these microorganisms, which may be divided into seven categories:

  1. Vegetable protein that has been cultured.

These are mainly legumes, such as soybeans, which are used to make tempeh, an Indonesian delicacy that dates back over two thousand years. Tempeh is created from cooked, hulled, fermented soybeans that have been linked together with a mold that helps to digest soy. The outcome is a pressed cake that may be cut, shredded, diced, or even put onto a skewer for grilling.

  1. Fermentation pastes with high salt content and a meat taste.

These are pastes and sauces made from salty and savory meat-flavored, protein-bound grains and legumes, such as soybeans, that are soaked, mashed, boiled, and fermented. The majority of these fermentations are from Asian nations.
Soy sauce, miso, shoyu, Vietnamese mam, Indonesian trassi, and Malaysian belachan are all examples.

3. Fermentation of alcohol.

These are referred to in the Bible as fermented wine. When yeasts are put in an environment without oxygen, carbohydrates like glucose, fructose, and sucrose are transformed into cellular energy, and the microbes also create ethanol (alcohol) and carbon dioxide as metabolic waste products.

The natural sugars present in grapes are fermented to produce wine.
Sugarcane is fermented to make rum, whereas grain is fermented to make whiskey, vodka, and beers.

4. Fermentation of vinegar.

When you expose alcohol (ethanol) to oxygen, you get this sort of fermentation. Vinegar is made by Acetobacter bacteria, which convert alcohol to acetic acid, or vinegar. If you’ve ever left a bottle of wine open too long, you’ve probably encountered this sort of fermentation! Apple cider vinegar, wine vinegar, coconut water vinegar, and African palm vinegar are all examples of acetic acid fermentation.

5. Keeping Food Safe

Fermentation keeps food much better than pasteurization, which is the most widely used food preservation method. While pasteurization reduces a food’s nutritional value by killing enzymes as well as beneficial and harmful bacteria, fermentation boosts it (more on this later in the chapter). Fermenting your own foods also allows you to buy local raw ingredients and keep them without fear of them rotting.

  1. Foods that have been alkaline-fermented.

Foods are created from a variety of basic ingredients that are less popular in the United States and are mostly eaten in Southeast Asia and Africa. One such example is Japanese natto, which is made from cooked soybeans, or African ugba, which is produced from oil beans.

This breakdown of proteins into their component amino acid and peptide portions causes the release of ammonia and an increase in the pH of the product, resulting in the strong odor associated with fermentation of these raw materials.

  1. Leavened bread and rolls

These are created from fermented grains, such as wheat or rye, that are raised in the presence of naturally occurring yeasts and lactobacilli to produce sourdough and raise the dough further. The lactic acid produced by the Lactobacilli in the dough results in the creation of moderately sour bread, as opposed to the yeast bread created using baker’s yeast.

The fermented mixture of grain and water referred to known as a “sourdough starter,” may be kept and used to begin a new batch of dough in the future. The practice of baking leavened bread extends back thousands of years, with records dating back as long as six thousand years.

  1. The production of lactic acid.

This happens when bacteria consume sugars from meals and turn them into cellular energy, which is then converted into lactate, or lactic acid, in the process. Lactic acid is a natural preservative that prevents the growth of putrefying bacteria, and the production of lactic acid is one of the most important kinds of fermentation used in the food business.

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Sauerkraut, cucumber pickles, olives, kimchi, kefir, yogurt, soymilk, buttermilk, cheeses, and tofu are all examples of lactic acid fermentations produced by vegetables, as are kimchi and kefir.
For thousands of years, we have been using this natural process to ferment traditional foods to preserve them.

years. To describe the miraculous alterations that happened during fermentation, the Greeks used the term “alchemy.” Milk fermented into yogurt, kefir, cheeses, and buttermilk is thought to be the first type of lactic acid fermentation. Due to natural fermentation by lactic acid bacteria, raw milk that has not been pasteurized spoils quickly.

Lactose (milk sugar) is converted by bacteria into lactic acid, which is used as a preservative. Lactic acid is a natural antibiotic that helps to keep rotting organisms out of naturally preserved goods.

The advantages of lacto-fermentation, however, do not end with preservation. Lacto-fermentation produces a wide range of tastes and textures. Lactobacilli, the most significant lactic acid-producing bacteria, multiply throughout the fermentation process, which is why fermented foods are so healthy.

Our bodies do not have to totally depend on the digestive system to process nutrients since Lactobacilli boost the digestibility of vegetables by giving their own natural enzymes.
These bacteria also create antibiotics and cancer-fighting chemicals, as well as increase the natural nutrient content of plants.

Lactic acid also promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gastrointestinal system, which is essential for human health.
Throughout part 1, we’ll look at each of these incredible powers.


Bacteria are found in a variety of places, not only in food. The human body is home to a diverse range of living creatures known as microbes. Millions of these microbes reside in everything from our digestive systems to our skin. Many of these microorganisms are necessary for human health and coexist with us in a billion-year-old relationship.

In the human body, there are around 10 trillion cells, while bacteria have about ten times that amount. Our microflora refers to all of the bacteria that live on us.

Some of these organisms help the human host by preventing the growth of dangerous species, controlling the development of the stomach, creating vital vitamins, and bolstering the immune system.

Salmonella typhi produces typhoid, Varicella zoster causes chicken pox, and Mycobacterium tuberculosis causes TB, to name a few bacteria that are pathogenic and cause infectious illnesses. However, the majority of bacteria species are unknown to have any useful or detrimental properties.

Humans’ typical bacterial flora develops after birth, resulting in stable populations of bacteria that make up adult flora.
The nature of the local environment, including pH, temperature, oxygen, water, and nutrient levels, largely determines the makeup of the typical flora in any portion of the body.

Only the interior tissues of a healthy person are devoid of microorganisms: blood, brain, and muscle.
Skin and mucous membranes, on the other hand, are continually in touch with environmental organisms and may be colonized easily by a variety of bacteria.

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As a result, your body is a complex ecosystem containing these bacteria and their genes in a symbiotic connection; the term “microbiome” refers to both bacteria and genes. We, as hosts, create the environment in which these bacteria may thrive, and we depend on them to carry out critical functions without which we would perish.

The microbiome, for example, contains compounds that we require but cannot produce on our own, such as vitamins and anti-inflammatories, which are important for preventing the spread of harmful bacteria, regulating the development of the gut, producing important vitamins, and bolstering the immune system.

We are continually exposed to microbes looking for a host body to help them survive and reproduce. Air, water, food, and person-to-person contact are all possibilities for their invasion. Because of the ongoing exposure to novel germs, a robust defense is required to actively prevent disease-causing bacteria from colonizing the body. Fermented foods may help strengthen that defense by being high in helpful bacteria.

Growth and development of the body’s natural microflora

In addition, your skin and mucous membrane—the linings of all bodily passageways and cavities that are in contact with the external environment as well as the inside of your organs—contain a significant quantity of microflora that are regarded to be the human body’s natural microflora.
Humans are colonized by normal microflora for the first time at their birth.

The infant is maintained sterile inside the uterus until the mother’s water breaks, and as the birthing process progresses, the colonization of microflora on the mother’s body’s surfaces starts.
In addition, the bacteria present in the mother’s vagina are passed on to her baby, and the colonization of these helpful microorganisms takes up all available space and nourishment, limiting the colonization of potentially harmful germs in the vagina. During Cesarean deliveries, this transfer is totally missing from the process.

It is common for these newborns to acquire and colonize with flora from the hospital environment, and their flora may vary from their mothers’ flora in certain cases. Feeding and handling of the newborn, as well as regular contact with bedding and even family pets, all contribute to the creation of a stable normal flora on the baby’s skin, mouth, and intestinal surfaces, which is essential for the development of healthy immunity.

In order to populate the baby’s gut with a balanced, healthy flora, breastfeeding is vital; breast milk includes the bacteria Bifidobacterium bifidum, which creates lactic acid and protects the newborn against both intestinal and respiratory infections.

In addition, when the baby’s intestinal microflora develops and functions properly, it contributes to the formation and function of the gut’s mucosal barrier, which helps to build resistance against colonization by a wide range of disease-causing microbes.

In order to maintain optimal health and survival.

During the fermentation process, fermented foods are rich in nutrients such as important vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and antioxidants, which are all boosted in their nutritional value. Research suggests that the nutrients included in fermented foods may potentially have a role in reducing the incidence of some malignancies, notably those of the stomach and intestines, according to some researchers. In addition, there is evidence to suggest that fermented foods might help to lower general inflammation in the body.

To defend itself against harmful stimuli like cell damage, pain, invading pathogens, or any other stressor, the body responds by inducing inflammation. Inflammation is the body’s initial defensive reaction to eliminate the injurious stimuli and begin the healing process.

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Too much inflammation in the body is mostly caused by an overworked immune system that has become uncontrollably aggressive and aggressive. Leaving it untreated, it may lead to common ailments such as allergies, autoimmune disease, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis, among other things. I’ll go into further detail about this in the next chapters.