Fermentation occurs when microorganisms (bacteria, yeasts, and other fungi) alter food in a way that benefits us. People have been fermenting foods like alcohol, bread, cheese, vegetables, and more for thousands of years. It was the original method of preserving wet foods, but nowadays most condiments are preserved with vinegar or food additives. These may be easier and more cost-effective to produce, but there are several good reasons to still eat fermented foods:
Fermentation creates umami, that delicious savory taste that you find in fermented foods like Parmesan cheese or soy sauce, by breaking down proteins and freeing the amino acid glutamic acid. It also creates sour organic acids like lactic and acetic acids in addition to aromatic fruit-like esters, which combine with umami to give fermented foods a great depth and complexity of flavor.
Thanks to the acidic by-products, fermented foods are naturally preserved without the need for additives. A smart choice for those looking to reduce their consumption of artificial ingredients, whether for environmental or health reasons.
Your gut microbiome is the bacteria, yeasts, and other microorganisms that live in your digestive tract and whose cells outnumber the total number of human cells in your entire body. Research and studies indicate that it significantly influences your digestion, immune system, gut-brain connection, and more; and that eating fermented foods has a positive impact on the gut microbiome.
The most common way of making nutrients more digestible is cooking, which breaks down nutrients into more easily digestible and absorbable sub-components. Fermentation does this as well, and has the added benefit of not degrading the nutrients as a result of high cooking temperatures.
In addition increasing the bioavailability of nutrients, fermentation also creates additional nutrients. For example, when compared to raw cabbage, fermented cabbage has been shown to increase the antioxidant levels (ORAC) by up to 2-fold and the nitric oxide levels by up to 2.6-fold (both of which are important for overall health).