Last spring I had the opportunity to interview Sandor Katz, advocate for fermented foods and author of The Art of Fermentation. I asked ‘fad or trend’? And the answer was; trend – here to stay. Before the interview, one of my biggest concerns was the safety of home fermenting and/or canning…but done properly all should be safe.
Fermented Food Trend
It all starts with and in the gut. Check out my HuffPost blog Five things you should know about Probiotics to get more background on the importance of maintaining a healthy GI system. Now back to the ‘why’ of fermented foods. For years we have fermented grapes to get wine, cabbage to get sauerkraut, milk to get yogurt and vegetables to get kimchi.
Everyone is getting in on the action. Dedicated blogs to fermenting; William Sonoma’s website posted All about Fermentation, recent media headlines include; 7 Fermented Foods You Need to Include in Your Diet. The Dr. Oz blog further touts the health benefits, including eating fermented foods makes digestion easier, helping irritable bowel syndrome, decreasing diarrhoea, and better brain health (1). Are fermented foods a key to optimal human health? What does the research say?
Fermented Food Research
There are a variety of health benefits supported in the literature in regards to fermented foods. One study outlines many benefits of fermented foods including lactic acid bacteria decreases gastrointestinal illnesses including diarrhea, decreasing lactose intolerance, IBD and decreased inflammation.This allows for better absorption of nutrients in the GI tract (2).
Another study supports the beneficial effect of eating fermented foods along with a healthy diet and lifestyle may decrease the risk of colon cancer (3). Specifically, the consumption of the fermented foods may decrease the growth of tumours and decrease the overall potential of the start of tumours if none exist.
We are learning more and more about the gut microbiota (flora) and microbiome (ecosystem). A recent study shows that the gut microbiome is positively affected when fermented foods are consumed (4). This resulted in improved body composition. This study also demonstrated an increase in energy metabolism when consuming these foods.
From this research it shows fermented foods may pose positive outcomes in the body. However, remember everyone’s gut is individual. It is like a fingerprint. I recommend starting off with a 2% Greek yogurt daily, then adding other fermented foods into your meal plan. Pay attention to what your gut is telling you before you start overloading on sauerkraut, kimchi or Christmas hot toddy fruitcake!
The Art of Fermentation at Home
Now that we know consumption of fermented foods may assist in increasing one’s health status, you might want to start fermenting that winter cabbage…I recommend this Health Canada website for safe food canning at home. It deals with basic food safety principles. Sandor’s book The Art of Fermentation may be something you add to your cookbook shelf too. Remember you’re dealing with bacteria to change and ferment the food, so it is important to follow proper preparation, storage and sanitation procedures.
Stay safe, follow your gut and enjoy this recipe for a kimchi umami burger from my Grow with Nutrition Korean Food Part Two blog.
- The OZ Blog, Mao Shing. Fermented Foods for Powerful Immunity, 2013 [cited 2013 Nov 11]. Available from: http://blog.doctoroz.com/oz-experts/fermented-foods-for-powerful-immunity
- Parvez S, Malik KA, Kang S, Kim H-Y. Probiotics and their fermented food products are beneficial for health. J Appl Microbiol. 2006; Jan 24 [cited 2013 Nov 11];100 (6): 1171–1185 [Epub ahead of print].
- Davis C, Milner J. Gastrointestinal microflora, food components and colon cancer prevention. J Nutr Biochem. 2009; Jun 4 [cited 2013 Nov 11]: 20(10):743-752.
- Omar J, Chan Y-M, Jones M, Prakash S, Jones, P. Lactobacillus fermentum and Lactobacillus amylovorus as probiotics alter body adiposity and gut microflora in healthy persons. J Funct Foods. 2012: Oct 9 [cited 2013 Nov 11]; 5(11):116-123 [Epub ahead of print].