Kimchi anyone? Discovering the World of Fermented Foods

Let’s talk about kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir and kombucha. A mouthful, yes. Fermented foods are currently making headlines due to their probiotic benefit, although they’ve been part of our diet for hundreds of years. So why the fuss now? As new foods such as KKK (Kimchi, Kefir, Kombucha) hit the supermarket shelves and even start appearing on restaurant menus, consumers are only now becoming aware of their health benefits.

The process of fermentation involves the use of good bacteria, such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium spp, also knownProbiotics - Prebiotics...Heard of them?! as probiotics. Simply put – Probiotics are “good bacteria” that are similar to the ones found in our gut. They help our gut by increasing the number of good bacteria and in turn, inhibit the bad ones; a bacterial “balancing” act. So why are probiotics important for health?

  • They are important for the proper development of our immune system.
  • They serve to protect us from disease-causing microorganisms.
  • They are vital for the digestion of nutrients and food.

Probiotics have been used to ease symptoms of lactose intolerance & irritable bowel syndrome. Probiotic research has also extended to exploring their role in inflammatory bowel disease, treating diarrhea, eczema prevention in children, & reducing bladder cancer recurrence & urinary tract infections. It is important to know that not all probiotics are the same. Health benefits depend on the particular strain of the organism and the dose – for this reason not all foods marketed as having probiotics will provide health benefits.

When it comes to fermented foods, cheese and milk are the simplest examples that have been around for  many years and are usually the easiest source for consumers to add probiotics to their diet. Current it foods appearing on shelves include the following:

sauerkrautfullsizephoto214033Sauerkraut and Kimchi: Both are cabbage-based dishes made by lactic acid bacteria fermentation. Cabbage is naturally high in fibre and contains cancer-fighting compounds, also known as isothiocyanates. Sauerkraut originated in Germany and is finely cut, entailing just 2 main ingredients: cabbage and brine. Kimchi is a Korean dish, where the cabbage is cut into larger chunks and includes the plant leaves and stems. Spices such as chilli, pepper and garlic are added for flavour. Some studies have demonstrated the possible role of Kimchi in controlling blood sugar levels and reducing cholesterol.

kefir_grains3Kefir: Many will tell you that kefir is definitely an acquired taste, so I would advise adding a little dash to your cereal before taking a massive gulp in order to get used to the taste. Kefir is a milk drink which has been fermented by a variety of bacteria and uses kefir “grains”, a starter culture which is a combination of lactic acid bacteria and yeast. Reported benefits are rather appealing and include improved gut health and immune kefirsystem, antimicrobial activity as well as enhanced lactose digestion, to name a few. Kefir is also a great source of the amino acid, tryptophan and is also rich in vitamins K, B12 and biotin.

405px-Kombucha_MatureKombucha: Originating in China, Kombucha is a sweet tea-based drink, which has been fermented by a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. Unfortunately, its long list of health benefits is yet to be supported by strong scientific evidence. Perceived benefits include immune boosting effects and enhancing gut health. kombucha

Fermented foods are now seen as a great addition to your diet, given the growing evidence of their benefits. However, I always say, no sole food will act alone to promote health, so ensure your diet is healthy as a whole and incorporating such foods may give it the boost it needs! 

Leave a Reply