Our ancestors knew the health benefits of fermented food although they had no knowledge of microbial world. The ancient practice of fermenting fruits, vegetables, dairy products or meat was primarily born as a way to store food from spoiling, but with time our predecessors discovered that fermented food has healing properties as well.
Praising Gods for the miracle of fermentation
The earliest evidence on fermented fruit date around 6000 BC; remains of wine, soured rice and fruits with honey were found all the way from China to Egypt, Iran, Babylon to South America.
Early societies had no knowledge about why fermentation process occurs (fermenting comes from the Latin language and means “to boil”) so they’ve praised their Gods for this dramatic bubbly transformation of raw ingredients into tasteful, non-spoiling food which not only keeps the hunger away but it heals diseases too. Osiris was Egyptian God who gave them a miracle of beer brewing; Greeks had Bacchus – a God of wine. Our ancestors used fermented foods and drinks to cure digestion problems, fever, open wounds, for faster recovery from various ailments and keeping the body strong and resilient during hunger periods (winters, wars, migrations, floods, droughts).
What our ancestors called God’s work, we today call lactic acid bacteria, enzymes, vitamins, mold, yeast, healthy intestinal microflora and other healthy microorganisms that get activated through this fascinating chemical process of making raw materials more tasty, digestible and healthier.
It’s healthier to ferment than to consume raw ingredients
When compared to raw vegetables, fruits, dairy or meat, fermented foods have even more benefits because of:
- Improved aroma and texture
- Abundance of synthesized vitamins that cannot be found in raw food (including B12 which no plants, fungi or animals can synthesize)
- Reduced or completely eliminated harmful carbohydrates which cause flatulence, heartburn and digestive dysfunction – the root of most problems and disorders
- Replenishes intestinal microflora (probiotics – healthy gut bacteria and yeast)
Combining ancient practice with modern knowledge – the best of both worlds
We, the people of the modern age, have for the most part abandoned the way to store food by fermenting it, since we have developed new, more practical ways of food preservation – freezing, dehydrating, canning, pasteurization, vacuumed packaging etc.
But the sad fact is – we have also deprived ourselves from all those healthy microorganisms that flourish in fermented food and are irreplaceable for good health, which kept our ancestors immune systems strong and resilient throughout the centuries without the use of any artificial food supplements we tend to take today.
Today we know that primary benefit of fermented food is not to keep food from spoiling, but to convert sugars and other unhealthy carbohydrates into healthy organic acids, vitamins and probiotics – friendly microorganisms that keep us healthy.
With modern knowledge about abundant health benefits of fermented food we should keep the good tradition of our grandfathers and incorporate homemade fermented goods into our daily diet. It’s a small step that goes a long way in preserving healthy body and mind the way it’s meant to be kept: the best way – the natural way!