People in the west are starting to look at fermented foods for health reasons, but across the rest of the globe it is simply what people do to preserve their food and make it more digestible.
That is one of the opening lines in a podcast about fermenting food from the BBC’s The Food Programme. They first reported on the fermentation revival back in 2012 and we blogged about that podcast too (Home fermenting making a comeback).
This time, they are talking to chef Olia Hercules, who lives in the UK but was born in the Ukraine. She explains how in Ukraine they ferment some foods such as tomatoes and whole watermelon. Apparently the tomatoes can become fizzy from the fermentation and her mother calls them champagne tomatoes.
For so long in the west we have made sure our food is as sterile as possible (which is a good thing when you are talking about some microorganisms) that we tend to have a distrust for most fermented things. That is a shame as there is a diverse array of fermented foods out there.
But back to business, why are we talking about fermented foods? Because in our blog yesterday we reported on a paper claiming that in the west we are losing diversity in our guts due to our diet. The paper recommended adding fibre to flour so that the microorganisms have something to feast on, but another way to increase the diversity of your microbiome is by eating fermented foods.
A paper published back in 2014 in Nature found that drinking a fermented milk product decreased the amount of a potential bad bacteria in the gut of people with irritable bowel syndrome. This is important as the prevailing thinking was that the microbes ingested in food had little impact on the gut microbiota.
Even if the microbes in the fermented food do not hang around in your gut, this paper suggested that they make the environment better for some of the existing good ones. In combination with eating more fibre such as wholegrains, it can all add up to a much healthier more diverse gut community.