Fermented foods have been trendy for a while. From kombucha to raw kraut, these foods are popular and they are good for you. So let’s talk about what fermented foods are, what their benefits are, and how to make them!
Fermented foods have been a part of many cultures for centuries. The process of fermenting involves culturing good bacteria in food. This process acts a safer and more beneficial way of preserving foods as opposed to canning.
Examples of commonly eaten fermented foods are Kimchi, Kombucha, Kefir, Yogurt, and Sauerkraut. While these are more commonly known foods, most foods can be fermented (if you know what you’re doing).
There are a few kinds of fermentation like wild fermentation (my favorite way to ferment), culture based fermentation, lactic acid fermentation, acetic acid fermentation, and alcohol fermentation.
Wild fermented foods are made through wild fermentation. As mentioned above, this is my favorite form of fermentation because you don’t need anything special to start these ferments.
Instead, you rely on the naturally occurring bacteria and prebiotics in the food to start the ferment. This in my opinion, make this form of fermentation more accessible because you don’t have to worry about finding someone to give you a culture to start with. Want to try your hand at wild fermentation? Check out my fermented pickled carrot sticks recipe!
Culture based fermentation is the process of fermented foods using started cultures. You can do this with pretty much any ferment and this is likely the most common form of fermentation. The most common examples of of culture based fermentation include using SCOBYs for kombucha and kefir grains for a fermented yogurt-like drink, kefir.
This type of fermentation requires accessing a started to make your fermentation. Either from previous fermentations you’ve done, or from people around you.
Then we get into the other types of fermented foods, which include lactic, acetic, and alcohol fermentation. These forms of fermentation are done under special circumstances to create a desired product.
Lactic acid fermentation is the form of fermenting that cultivates lactic acid bacteria. Examples of lactic acid fermentation include fermented pickles, kraut, and kimchi. In this case, you don’t typically need a starter and you ferment specific ingredients without air to foster growth of lactic acid bacteria.
Alcoholic fermentation is when you ferment sugars without air, allowing the bacteria to convert sugar to alcohol. This is how I started my fermentation journey: making honey wine in my basement in high school…
Then we get into acetic acid fermentation, this where we convert alcohol into acetic acid, AKA vinegar. This is how I fell into starting my own fermentation business. I accidentally let my alcohol I was fermented turn to vinegar and realized vinegar was a lot more fun to make than alcohol. Raw vinegars are an example of ferments made with acetic fermentation.
Fermented foods offer a variety of health benefits making them a popular food staple around the world. If done correctly, fermenting foods can introduce beneficial bacteria (probiotics). These probiotics will increase nutrient bioavailability and provide a wide variety of other health benefits.
The probiotics increase nutrient bioavailability by partially digesting the food components. A study comparing the nutrient content of non-fermented and fermented foods found that foods increased in calcium, magnesium, zinc, and iron bioavailability after fermentation (Somvanshi et al. 10).
This means the body will absorb more of the nutrients from a fermented food as opposed to its non-fermented alternate.
This partial digestion of food components not only increases nutrient absorption but also improves digestion. While found to increase nutrient content and bioavailability, these foods have additional beneficial traits too.
The naturally occurring good bacteria in ferments can boost your immune system and heal the gut (Boon 3). There are many thoughts as to why this happens, one of which is because the probiotics that help preserve and pre-digest the foods might help colonize your cut to protect you from pathogenic bacteria.
While purely anecdotal, my grandma will tell you drinking kombucha helps with her arthritis and inflammation. She loves to flavor her kombucha with tart cherry juice to boost the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
More research needs to be done on the beneficial impacts of probiotics and fermented foods. However, despite this, there are many people with anecdotal stories on how probiotics help them feel better.
As a huge supporter of fermented foods, they can be a helpful addition to your diet. Not only are they delicious but they are a great way to experience other cultural food staples that have been around for ages.
Additionally, the potential health benefits make it worth adding them to your dietary habits.
I look forward to more solid findings related to fermented food consumption in the future as I believe these foods are under-utilized in society today. Until then, I’m going to keep on sipping on my Fermented Ginger Soda!
Let me know if you eat fermented products in the comments below!
Boon, Yap Wei and Sujang, Rina Anak. “The Health Benefits of Probiotics.” [“Kebaikan Probiotik kepada Kesihatan”]. Malaysian Journal of Health Sciences / Jurnal Sains Kesihatan Malaysia, vol. 12, no. 2, July 2014, pp. 41-44. EBSCOhost,
Somvanshi, Amisha, et al. “Effect of Microbial Fermentation and Processing on Nutritional and Antinutritional Properties of Selected Fermented Foods.” Asian Journal of Research in Chemistry, vol. 10, no. 4, Jul/Aug2017, pp. 531-540. EBSCOhost,