What are Lacto-Fermented or Cultured Foods? Think yoghurt, kombucha, sourdough breads, milk kefir, water kefir, sauerkraut, cultured vegetables and kvass.
HISTORY OF LACTO-FERMENTED FOODS
Lacto-fermentation is an age-old tradition that has been practiced by many different cultures around the world for thousands and thousands of years. Not only were the traditional methods of fermentation relied upon for preservation they also created foods with important nutritional components. In fact modern science is helping us to gain more and more understanding of the astounding benefits that lacto-fermented (cultured, pro-biotic rich) foods have to offer to the health and longevity of humans. These cultured foods are becoming widely recognized as essential components for our nutritional profiles.
Whether it be kimchi from Korea, miso from Japan, sourdough from Europe or sauerkraut from Germany, the practice of preparing and eating lacto-fermented foods has been treasured as a culinary delight to please the senses and promote health across the world. Unfortunately the traditional methods of lacto-fermentation have been lost and replaced by modernised methods of preservation using sugar, heat and packaging, stripping these foods of their nutritional qualities and health benefits.
The word ‘cultured’ is often used interchangeably with the term lacto-fermented which brings the need to explain the importance and depth of meaning to this term. “Culture” comes from the latin word cultura, which means to cultivate. The term culture, when speaking about lacto-fermented foods simply refers to the microbial community of bacteria created to transform that food through fermentation.
WHAT IS LACTO-FERMENTATION?
The practice of Lacto-fermentation is a traditional food practice that involves harnessing the power of naturally occurring lactic-acids which inhibit the growth of putrefying bacteria. Our ancestors may not have had electricity and cars but they were clever enough to know how to preserve foods for long periods without the use of refrigerators, refined sugar & canning machines.
During lacto-fermentation the starches and sugars in fruits, vegetables and even dairy products are converted to lactic acid by the many species of naturally occurring lactic-acid bacteria existing on and in that whole and natural food. Present on the surface of all living things the ubiquitous nature of lactic acid bacteria can be controlled and encouraged to proliferate for the benefit of mankind.
WHAT ARE THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF LACTO-FERMENTING FOODS?
- It increases vitamin and mineral content.
- It enriches them with beneficial bacteria essential for healthy gut flora.
- It enhances the digestion and absorption of nutrients from other foods.
- It induces detoxification – transforming anti-nutrients into nutrients.
The incorporation of cultured foods into our daily diet is essential in today’s modern world. As we have slaughtered our gut flora with antibiotics, chemicals & processed foods we have seen the emergence of more and more chronic disease and illness. Researchers are revealing the importance of our micro-biome and the maintenance of the right balance of good and bad bacteria in our gut. Eating probiotic rich foods prepared using traditional methods of lacto-fermentation is an important factor in preventing, healing and maintaining this balance.