Fermenting for the FutureWhat comes to mind when thinking of fermentation? While many people jump towards rot or food waste, I’m hoping we can re-frame fermentation through cultural, nutritional, and scientific lenses, to view it as a medicine.

Okay, let’s rewind and talk about what fermentation is in the first place. In simple terms, it is when a type of microbe (typically bacteria or yeast) converts food energy sources into different compounds. So why is this a good thing, I thought humans used those same energy sources to feed themselves. Well, we do, but there are a lot of additional benefits to allowing these little creatures to have the first feast. Taking a holistic view of the practice of fermentation requires us to consider both nutritional and socioeconomic impacts.

Not only do fermented foods provide a diverse source of probiotics, but they also increase the bioavailability of nutrients. This makes it so the body can better take up and use the beneficial parts of your food. B vitamins, magnesium, and zinc are the nutrients that are most affected by this. So, we already have one major benefit to eating fermented foods, as these vitamins and minerals are among the most common for people to experience a deficiency. Antioxidants such as polyphenols and vitamin C, typically lost with storing foods over time, are also preserved. Depending on the different strains of bacteria and yeasts present, fermented foods lead to an increase in GABA, glutamine, serine, beta-glucosidase, and bacteriocin.

By eating fermented foods, you are decreasing your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, depression, anxiety, periodontitis, candidiasis, and certain types of cancers. It also plays a role in fighting antibiotic resistance from the antimicrobial agents that are produced. There is evidence that fermented foods support the immune system, act as an anti-inflammatory, and regulate blood sugar. So, by eating fermented foods you can manage the symptoms or even treat conditions like Type 2 Diabetes, IBS, elevated cholesterol, problems with satiety, and a variety of autoimmunity presentations.

We can see there are nutritional benefits to fermenting foods, next, I want to talk about historically and culturally why people began practicing fermentation.  Across the globe, there have been times of feasting and times of famine. When resources are high, humans have developed fermentation to save their bounty for when food is difficult to come by. It can limit food waste by extending the shelf life of all types of foods, so this includes meats, vegetables, and fruits. Fermented products can last many years and often develop more flavor over time. Nearly every people group uses fermentation to some degree, leaving us with a myriad of beautiful dishes to enjoy. Fermentation is generally a cheap process to do on your own, most dishes require salt or sugar, but many use the foods on their own with clean preparation techniques to prevent rot.

Some examples of fermented foods you can incorporate into your diet include yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, kombucha, tepache, kefir, soy sauce, poi, dosa, ogi, curtido, surströmming, injera, sourdough, and some hard cheeses. If you are looking at this list and thinking about how expensive these products can be in grocery stores, you’re not alone. Fermenting at home supports using local foods with your own hands, making your product tailored to exactly what you need. The wild yeast and bacteria found on your own skin are part of what keeps your body in balance, making home-fermented foods a personalized medicine. I would love to challenge you to not only enjoy eating fermented foods but to make your own!


Keep on supporting sustainability,

Dr. DeCarolis”


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