Fermented foods have recently attracted attention as something essential for one’s health and a beautiful life. But what are they?
What Are Fermented Foods?
Fermentation is the process where carbohydrates and proteins in food are dissolved by various microorganisms and enzyme function and are converted into components which are beneficial to humans. The food produced in such a way are called “fermented foods”, and are essential for our life- such as soy sauce, miso, sake, bread, and pickles. With such a long history, fermented foods have been eaten since times long past with the knowledge of the work of these microorganisms
Fermented Food Produced by chance- The Power of Fermentation -
A long time ago, an Arabian traveling merchant departed with milk in a flask made from the dried stomach of a mountain goat. After a few days, he opened the flask to the drink milk to quench his thirst, but clear water and white, soft clump came out. When he ate it, it had a particular sour deliciousness. This is said to be how fermented food first began.
Fermented food is said to be the product of an accident, and greatly reflects the weather and climate, local production, and taste of the country or region. This accident, which resulted in a food with an unconventional flavor, can be attributed to microorganisms naturally contained in the material, and with the right climate to facilitate fermentation. Various foods have since replaced the original ones, including cheese, wine, natto, salted fish intestines, pickles, miso, and soy sauce, through many trials and errors according to the originality and ingenuity of the ancient people. A traditional food culture has built specifically in each country in the world, depending on the food materials of each area, weather and climate, ethnicity, religion, etc.
So, what exactly is this “fermentation” that occurs in fermented food? In simple terms, fermentation is the process where microorganisms and enzymes break down and synthesize starches, sugars, and proteins, and produce new components. While this makes food more beneficial, it also adds a delicious, effective component not present in the food’s original state, increases the nutritional value, and improves shelf life of “fermented food.” A similar phenomenon is decomposition. However in decomposition, components dangerous to humans are produced. The characteristic shared by both fermentation and decomposition is the involvement of microorganisms.
There is much to learn from the wisdom of “fermentation.”
Benefits of Fermentation
01Increased aroma and flavor
One reason why fermented food is delicious is that, in the fermentation process, microorganisms produce a special smell and taste not found in the food originally.
02Increased nutritional value
New nutritional components are produced by enzymatic function as the microorganisms break down and ferment the food. In addition, the fermenting microorganisms themselves, such as lactobacillus and yeast, are beneficial for one’s health. Fermentation also improves the rate of absorption of nutrients into the body.
Since food is partially digested by the microorganisms before ingesting, fewer digestive enzymes are needed inside the human body.
As fermentation microorganisms increase, they suppress the growth of other bacteria, including dangerous, putrefying bacteria. As a result, food can be preserved for a longer time.
Fermented food has been passed down to our day as the wisdom of our ancestors. It is hoped that such food is included in our daily meals to continue to support our healthy lives.