Think of all the adjectives you could use to describe your favourite meals. Now tell us how far down the list the word ‘fermented’ comes? We doubt it even makes the top 20. Yet while it isn’t the most delicious description, it’s an important one when it comes to the foods we eat.
The good news is that fermented food isn’t quite as gross and fizzing as it sounds – in fact, some everyday items are secretly fermented, too. But why is fermentation so good for us?
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Fermented food essentially describes food that includes live bacteria, known as probiotics, explains Linia Patel, dietician and nutritionist. “Pre-made fermented food is quite trendy, but a lot of day-to-do ingredients already have these probiotics in them,” she explains.
Some examples of fermented food include:
- Bio-live yoghurts
- Sourdough bread
What are the benefits of fermented food?
The benefits of fermented food come down to those wonderful probiotics. “Evidence shows that people who over time eat fermented foods have an increase in their gut microbial (aka gut bacteria) diversity. This improves their digestion, immune system, brain function, memory and so many other processes that are controlled by the gut axis,” Linia explains.
How much fermented food should we eat?
“I think you should be trying to include fermented food daily into your diet,” says Linia, but she explains that it’s important to not add in too much too soon as the bacteria can overwhelm your gut – so start by slowly introducing probiotic foods into your diet.
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And don’t feel like you need to spend a huge amount of money on fancy kombucha. In fact, “a lot of commercial foods contain high levels of sugar or salt, so we shouldn’t be going overboard on them,” Linia adds.
“I’d begin by swapping your yoghurt to a bio live yoghurt. Don’t underestimate how the active cultures in it can help to keep your bacteria in check, and they’re also an important source of protein and calcium,” Linia says. “Now we are heading into winter, why not try swapping out your stock for a miso paste which is made of fermented soya beans to use in soups or stews, or simply buying a fresh sourdough loaf instead of your normal bread.”
How to make your own fermented food
It’s also possible to brew your own fermented foods from home. You already know that if you were one of the millions to get addicted to making your own sourdough during lockdown, but you can do more than baking bread.
“Something really simple involves making your own pickled cabbage using vinegar, red wine, a bit of sugar and some red cabbage. That doesn’t involve adding any live bacteria, it simply ferments itself, and so is probably a safe place to start if you’ve never done it before.”
Try these fermented recipes
Earlier this year, Bread Ahead shared their famous sourdough recipe with Stylist, and it’s a delicious place to begin with fermented baking.
Red cabbage sauerkraut
If you’re worried about disliking any fermented taste, this recipe from the Minimalist Baker is packed with ginger and apples too.
This delivery service by Freshly Fermented sends you all you need to create kombucha from scratch.
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Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).