Fermented food and drink: The history, benefits, and trends

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You may think fermented foods are a brand new discovery, but they’ve been around for several thousand years.

In fact, the first recorded fermented drink was kui, a Chinese beverage made of rice, honey and fruit – first made over 9,000 years ago!

We’re huge fans of fermented food and beverages and want to share their benefits with the world. Whether you are a vegan looking for something new and exciting to eat, or delicious food to help you stay healthy… there is something for everyone!

Join us as we look at the history of fermentation, the different types of food and drink available, the health benefits and why fermented products are seeing a boost in popularity.

  • What is fermentation?
  • Our favorite fermented food and drinks
  • The health benefits of fermented food and beverages
  • Why is fermentation so popular?
  • In conclusion

What is fermentation?

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Fermentation is an anaerobic process where yeast and bacteria convert carbohydrates into alcohol and acids. These alcohol and acids are what give fermented foods and drink their distinctive tangy flavor.

Fermentation has been around for thousands of years and was a technique used to preserve food back in a time where people didn’t have refrigerators or freezers!

No specific country can claim to have invented fermentation. It was used across a range of different countries at once including China, Japan, Korea, Russia and the Philippines!

In 1856, Louis Pasteur was the first person to identify what fermentation was. A brewer asked him to investigate why his beet juice was not turning into alcohol. Pasteur concluded that the juice was fermenting instead!

Nearly sixty years later, a Russian scientist called Elie Metchnikoff investigated fermentation in more detail. He noticed that the Bulgarian population was living a lot longer than people in neighbouring countries and decided to investigate. He came to the conclusion that they were eating a lot of fermented foods, and this was contributing to their longer life span.

Our favorite fermented food and drinks

There are a lot of different fermented beverages and food out there, and if we mentioned them all, this article would be pages and pages long!

Here are a few of our favorites, what they are made from and what to eat and drink them with.

Yogurt

The most famous fermented drink & food, yogurt is the most consumed and well known fermented food in the world. Fermentation of sugars in the milk by these bacteria produces lactic acid, which acts on milk protein to give yogurt its texture and characteristic tart flavor. There are many different types of yogurt but these days greek yogurt(Strained yogurt) is getting popular.

Kefir

Kefir(from Wikipedia)

Kefir is a fermented milk drink which is slightly sour and fizzy. It’s made by adding kefir grains to milk. Add it to your morning smoothie to give it a tangy boost!

Kombucha

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Kombucha is a fizzy fermented beverage that is made from either black or green tea.  Because of the fermentation process, it’s slightly alcoholic (about 0.5%)

Have you ever heard of a SCOBY? This is short for ‘symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast’ and is used to brew kombucha!

Lassi

Lassi(from Wikipedia)

An Indian drink, lassi is made of sour milk and spices. It’s a cooling yogurt drink that is often enjoyed with spicy curries and comes in both sweet and savoury varieties.

Miso

Miso is a salty Japanese paste that is made from fermented soybeans. It comes in various colours including yellow, white, red and brown.

Miso is most commonly used as the key component of miso soup, and can also be used as a tasty marinade for fish and vegetables.

Natto

Like miso, natto is a Japanese food made from soybeans. However, rather than being served as a paste, it is eaten as is.

Natto is quite slippery and slimy, and some people aren’t fans – but we love it! Try it with sushi rice or crisp vegetables.

Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is a side-dish made of fermented shredded cabbage and salt. It’s a bit like kimchi, but less peppery. It’s been eaten in Germany for centuries but originated in China!

Add it to a hotdog or sandwich, or pile it on top of a bowl of vegetable soup.

Kimchi

Picture of Kimchi (from Wikipedia)

Kimchi is a Korean dish that is over 4,000 years old! A spicy-sour and crunchy blend, it’s made of fermented vegetables including daikon radish, cabbage, and garlic. Try it alongside eggs, burgers, or rice!

Did you know that Koreans eat an incredible 49 pounds of kimchi each a year? Koreans consume a lot almost every day!.

Tempeh

Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans. It has a nutty flavor and is a great meat substitute for those on a vegan or vegetarian diet. Try it in a stir-fry or a sandwich.

Gochujang

Picture of Gochujang

Gochujang is a spicy-sweet Korean chili paste made from fermented soybeans. Unlike your usual chili paste, it is very thick and sticky. Use it in stir-fries to give them a spicy kick or as a topping on bibimbap, which is a Korean rice dish.

The health benefits of fermented food and beverages

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Fermented foods aren’t just delicious and have a long shelf life, but they’re great for your health too.

Did you know that the typical digestive system has over 100 trillion bacteria living in it? Fermented foods can increase the number of probiotics, or ‘good’ bacteria that are found in your digestive system.

Stress, bad eating habits, and the use of antibiotics can reduce the number of probiotics we have in our bodies, making us more prone to illness and leaving us rundown.

The benefits of probiotics can vary from person to person, but can include:

  • Better digestion. Fermented foods can help relieve digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) as well as relieve bloating and constipation
  • Improved immunity. Fermented food and beverages can help to reduce your risk of infections
  • A healthier heart. Fermented foods can help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol
  • They can also help with weight loss, which we will discuss in more detail later

Fermented dairy products may also be good for those who suffer from lactose intolerance. During the fermentation process, lactose is broken down into sugars. This means that most people with intolerances can enjoy kefir and probiotic yoghurts without feeling bloated or gassy.

Fermentation can also unlock the health benefits of certain foods. For example, phytic acid is found in some nuts and seeds, which reduces the absorption of minerals like zinc and iron. Fermentation breaks down this phytic acid, making foods more nutritious.

Fermented food and drink have become increasingly popular over the past few years. It’s estimated that the market will be worth a staggering $875 billion across the world by 2027!

Why is fermentation so popular? Here are some of the current trends that may explain why.

You can make fermented foods at home

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We’ve all had to stay at home a lot more over the past year. As a result of this, we have been looking for things to do to keep us occupied. According to Google Trends, searches for making kimchi grew 51% between March and April 2020!

Fermented food recipes have been an excellent option for people throughout lockdown as they are easy to make, cheap, and all the equipment needed can be found online. In fact… if you made a sourdough loaf last year then you made fermented food! Sourdough bread is made of flour, water, and salt ; which ferment naturally to make the dough rise.

It’s easier to find fermented products in stores

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With the rise of online shopping and the creation of new businesses, it’s easier than ever to find high-quality fermented food and drinks in shops.

For example, a few years ago, if you wanted kombucha you had to either make it yourself or go to a specialist food store. Now all you have to do is go to your local supermarket and open the fridge!

As well as in stores, fermented foods have been finding their way onto restaurant menus too. According to Upserve, the number of fermented dishes in restaurants increased by 149% in 2020.

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Since it was invented about fifteen years ago, social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have helped to unite the world! They’ve also made us aware of different cultures and food trends.

Pinterest has allowed us to share lots of fantastic recipes, whilst we can show off our amazing photos of our fermenting food on Instagram!

We all want to be more healthy

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With two out of five Americans now obese, we are all looking at easy ways that we can lose weight and be healthy.

Fermented foods can help with weight loss. Firstly, most fermented products are made from nutritious food and drink like vegetables, soybeans and tea. Secondly, fermented foods are full of fibre, which can fill you up faster. Finally, probiotics can encourage healthy digestion.

Kimchi and sauerkraut have been proven to reduce body weight and improve metabolism over time.

In conclusion

If you’re looking for food and drink that not only tastes great but can make you healthier, why not go fermented? Whether you whip up a big batch of sauerkraut or pop to the shops to buy a bottle of flavored kombucha, we guarantee these foods will help you feel great! Which fermented treat will you be trying after reading this blog?

Links/reference you can check more details : soyinfocenter.com /health.harvard.edu/eatingwell.com/rockedu.rockefeller.edu/lhf.org/healthline.com

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