The fermentation of foods is an ancient practice that has been performed by humans for thousands of years. Our ancestors fermented food for various reasons as preservation, to improve the taste and to make them more digestible and nutritious. Many cultures still eat fermented foods, such as Japanese miso, tempeh, and Korean kimchi; but unfortunately, fermented foods have largely disappeared from the Western diet.
During the fermentation process, microorganisms such as yeast and bacteria convert carbohydrates to alcohols and carbon dioxide or organic acids. Fermentation is a form of pre-digestion to break down complex foods or plants into more readily absorbable amino acids and simpler sugars. Plants or herbs may have excellent active substances but can hardly be released as we can’t digest plant components. Fermentation is an excellent way to break down cellulose whereby nutrient levels and their bioaccessiblity improve. It also ameliorates amino acid and vitamin composition as well as mineral bioaccessibility.
Fermentation can also eliminate “anti-nutrients” like phytic acid, a compound found in herbs that blocks absorption of minerals and lectins, toxins that interfere with digestion. Production of kimchi has also been shown to biodegrade pesticides!
Fermentation can improve the potency of various phytonutrient antioxidants, significant increase the free soluble polyphenol content in herbs and decrease the bound phenol content. Free soluble polyphenols have both higher reducing power and free radical scavenging ability than bound polyphenols, as well as increased inhibition of lipid peroxidation.
So, fermentation ensures a pre-digestion and better absorption of the nutrients. It provides a powerful synergy between the bioavailable nutrients such as organic acids, polyphenols, glycosides, probiotics, enzymes, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and oligosaccharides.
Almost all natural plants can be fermented, including vegetables, fruits, cereals and herbs.
General benefits of fermented ingredients
- Highly safe fermentation process
- Respect for the entire plant matrix
- Increased bioavailability
- Increased levels of certain vitamins
- Improvement of mineral bioacessibility
- Elimination of anti-nutrients such as phytic acid and lectins
- Creation of unique metabolites not present in the raw material