Fermentation is an ancient practice in food preservation. Fermentation (leavening) has an effect on the release of carbon dioxide, which causes the bread to rise while baking. Cheese, yogurt, and wine are also produced by fermentation. Vinegar (acetic acid), a fermentation product, is used to make pickles from various vegetables. These types of food often have strong, tangy flavors.
What is Fermentation?
Fermentation is the process of using microorganisms such as bacteria or yeast to convert carbohydrates into alcohol or organic acids under anaerobic (oxygen free) conditions. There are two types of fermentation: alcoholic fermentation and lactic acid fermentation. Ethyl alcohol is also released during the release of carbon dioxide from pyruvate (from pyruvic acid) by bacteria and yeast in alcoholic fermentation or ethanol (ethyl alcohol) fermentation. Alcoholic fermentation is used to produce beer, bread, and wine. Lactose sugar is used in lactic acid fermentation. Pyruvate molecules formed in the early stages of sugar breakdown, namely the glycolysis stage, turn into lactic acid.
Fermentation and Probiotics
At the end of the 19th century, microbiologists realized that the microorganisms in the digestive tract of healthy individuals were different from those who were sick. This beneficial microflora is called probiotics. Probiotics are microorganisms that have proven health-promoting effects in humans and animals. Fermented foods and beverages are beneficial because they contain natural probiotics.
There are many benefits of consuming probiotics, such as improving gut health, strengthening the immune system, making better use of foods, reducing the symptoms of lactose intolerance, reducing the prevalence of allergies in susceptible individuals, and reducing the risk of certain cancers. Foods rich in probiotics include fermented cheese and soy sauce, kimchi (a traditional Far Eastern side dish made with fermented vegetables, especially red pepper and Chinese cabbage) and sauerkraut. Intestines can be fed with fermented probiotic beverages such as kefir and kombucha in addition to these fermented foods.
Advantages of Fermented Foods
There are many advantages to consuming fermented foods. Here are those advantages in the form of ingredients:
1-Preserves nutrients: Fermented foods do not lose their nutritional value and do not deteriorate easily. For example, yogurt can stay in the refrigerator longer than milk without spoiling. During fermentation, organisms produce acetic acid, alcohol and lactic acid, which preserve nutrients and prevent spoilage. Lactic acid reduces the pH and prevents the increase of harmful bacteria. Fermentation also improves food flavor and facilitates digestion.
2-It ensures that the bacteria in the intestines stay in balance: In the last century, people have started a war against microorganisms. Although some of these have been shown to be dangerous and cause illness, many are actually beneficial. In recent years, it has begun to be recognized again that besides their role in preserving food, beneficial microorganisms aid digestion and provide significant health benefits. In the fermentation process, natural ingredients are used to stimulate the increase of these beneficial microorganisms or probiotics. Probiotics are mostly members of a group of bacteria that produce lactic acid and are found in fermented foods such as fermented milk and yogurt. Consuming foods with lactic acid bacteria improves gut health, and fermented foods have been shown to reduce social anxiety.
3-Treats inflammatory bowel diseases: Fermented milk supplemented with probiotics can have a direct effect on the intestine in the treatment of inflammatory and functional bowel disorders. Clinical studies show that probiotics help reduce abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, and bloating in patients with inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s disease.
4- Suppresses H. pylori: H. pylori (Helicobacter pylori) infection is an important risk factor for many gastrointestinal diseases. Some fermented foods are useful for suppressing H. pylori infection. In a study, 464 participants were observed and H. pylori seropositivity was not observed in those who consumed yogurt more than once a week. This study confirmed other research findings showing that fermented milk improved gastrointestinal symptoms in patients who tested positive for H. pylori.
5-Reduces the symptoms of lactose intolerance: Fermented foods minimize the symptoms of lactose intolerance and reduce the prevalence of allergies in sensitive ones. Consuming such foods increases the rate of utilization of nutrients. Many conditions, such as lactose and gluten intolerance, asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, and allergies, are believed to be due to an imbalance of bacteria in the gut. Fermenting food is like digesting partially before eating it. Therefore, although some people cannot tolerate milk, they may tolerate yogurt as the lactose sugar in milk breaks down and turns into yogurt during fermentation. Fermented foods contain high levels of folic acid, which is very important for pregnant women in preventing birth defects along with a variety of other vitamins, including B vitamins. In addition, they are rich in enzymes necessary for the digestion and absorption of food.
6- Protects heart health: Milk consumption is associated with the risk of coronary heart disease, but there are also fermented milk products that are thought to be good for the heart. The general view in the medical world is that fermented dairy products can indeed slightly reduce high blood pressure (hypertension) because there is some evidence to this effect.
7-Improves the immune system: Fermented foods make the intestines stronger. Consumption of fermented foods such as kefir also improves the immune system. Easily digested kefir is also used to treat tuberculosis and cancer.
8-It has anticancer effects: Cancer is caused by activation or mutation of abnormal genes that control cell growth and division. Researchers believe that probiotic cultures and fermented foods can reduce exposure to chemical carcinogens. Several reports have been presented on how fermented foods can help treat cancer. A few of them are below:
* The effects of regular consumption of fermented dairy products on reducing the risk of bladder cancer were observed in studies in the Netherlands and Sweden.
* Bacteria species called Lactobacillus prevent the toxicity of carcinogens, harmful heavy metals and heterocyclic aromatic amines found in overcooked meat.
Kimchi, a fermented cabbage dish, contains bacterial strains called sodium nitrate, which break down a cancer-causing food preservative, causing organophosphate pesticides to break down.
9-Helps in the treatment of hepatic diseases: Extra fat accumulating in liver cells in non-alcoholic fatty liver causes swelling of the liver, scarring, liver failure and even cancer. In a double-blind, randomized, controlled clinical study, some participants consumed 300 grams of fermented probiotic yogurt containing Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis per day, while those in the control group consumed 300 grams of ordinary yogurt per day for eight weeks. In the group consuming probiotic yogurt, a decrease in alanine aminotransferase, aspartate aminotransferase, total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol was observed compared to the control group. The reduction in these parameters may be useful in the management of liver disease risk factors.
Disadvantages of Fermented Foods
Fermented foods have some disadvantages as well as advantages.
1-It is linked to the development of stomach cancer: According to a scientific publication in 2011, the connection between consumption of fermented foods and the risk of developing stomach cancer was found. Studies conducted to show the effects of fermented and unfermented soy foods on the risk of developing gastric cancer have shown that excessive intake of fermented soy products increases the risk of stomach cancer, while excess intake of unfermented soy products reduces the risk of stomach cancer.
2-Supermarket products destroy beneficial bacteria: Fermented foods sold in many grocery stores and supermarkets are processed differently than traditionally fermented foods. They are pasteurized and contain a lot of acid so they don’t spoil right away. Studies have shown that fermented cheese products contain more salt than water. The fact that fermented foods have some disadvantages does not mean that they should be avoided. It should always be fed in a balanced and measured way.
3-May cause sensitivity or allergy: Some people are sensitive to fermented (fermented) foods. When these people consume fermented foods too much, they may experience complaints such as gas, indigestion, bloating, weakness, exhaustion, fatigue. Those who have these and similar complaints should stay away from fermented products. Fermented products can cause allergies as well as sensitivity.
4- May increase blood pressure: Another problem is the salt ratio in fermented foods. If pickles and similar foods are too salty, they should be taken in moderation to avoid high blood pressure.
This precaution also protects the person against kidney diseases other than heart disease.