Before we invented modern ways to preserve food, we used to store most of it for later use through process of lacto-fermentation. But it’s not just a mere way to prevent food from spoiling; ingredients exposed to this naturally occurring biological process actually become healthier! Lacto-fermentation enhances nutritional value of food and enriches it with healthy bacteria cultures, vitamins and minerals.
Here are some interesting facts to help you understand how it works and how it creates all that good stuff in food. It will make you realize why our ancestors had healthier diets than us and why every home should use fermentation as a simple, healthy and sustainable way to preserve food.
How does lacto-fermentation works?
Simplified – lacto-fermentation is a naturally occurring process where certain types of healthy bacteria (lactobacillus) convert sugar into lactic acid. The “Lacto” part of its name stands for Lactobacilli – species of “good” bacteria naturally present virtually everywhere: on surfaces of fruits and vegetables, in human body (especially gastrointestinal tract), in bodies of animals… They feed on lactose and other sugars and in the process they make lactic acid. Lactic acid, mixed with salt, is the most reliable preservative in nature – this environment prevents the growth of harmful bacteria, mold and fungi and encourages the growth of good ones.
Lactobacillus – good guys versus bad guys
Salty lacto-acidic environment is ideal for growth of “good guys” (various types of healthy microorganisms) and inhibits the growth of bad ones.
Lactobacilli change structure of food, enhance the taste and smell of it but most importantly – they are one of the most prized and beneficial micro-organisms necessary for healthy intestinal flora.
Lacto fermented food (especially sauerkraut) is “alive” and brimming with probiotics and healthy enzymes. There are many scientific evidence supporting idea that probiotics (Lactobacilli and Bifidobacterim) prevent development of cancer. If we don’t consume enough food that contains healthy microorganisms (if we take a lot of processed “dead” food with low nutritional value), our gut flora becomes unbalanced and prone to development of harmful and dangerous bacteria. With time, it can lead to all kinds of intestinal problems, diseases, even cancer. Probiotics balance our bowel system; their growth prevents overgrowth of bad microorganisms in our body.
Fermentation also helps synthesize vitamins (C, B, K), antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin, and isothiocyanate – a chemical which inhibits the growth of cancer cells. Lacto-fermented vegetables and fruits are abundant with them.
Lacto-fermentation is the most natural, easiest and healthiest way to preserve food
Our ancestors may have had simpler diet than us, but it was way more natural and healthier. Any doctor will tell you that best way to remain healthy is a natural way – through healthy diet. It strengthens our immune system and makes our body able to naturally cleanse and fight harmful agents. Strong, resistant body doesn’t need drugs to cure itself – it does it naturally.
Fermenting your own foods is cheaper, more fun, and better for you than just popping a pill!
Modern ways of food preservation (like canning, freezing, pasteurization etc.) will make sure the food will not spoil, but it kills all good microorganisms that we need to be healthy. This is also the reason why store-bought fermented food contains less good bacteria; it’s made for mass consumption and needs to stay unspoiled for a long, long time. While we’re certainly lucky we live in the age when food is very accessible to anyone, processed food lacks essentials – good microorganisms we can’t live without.
Before you opt for store-bought fermented food, bear in mind that:
- Unlike store-bought, homemade lacto-fermented food is “alive” with all bacteria you need to be healthy.
- Preserving food through lacto-fermenting is simpler than pressure canning or waterbaths; you don’t need to process the jars, just store them on a cold place, like garage or a cellar.
- Making and storing homemade fermented food is zero energy usage process -very clean, healthy (no harmful chemical additives) and sustainable.
Let’s not completely lose the touch with this healthy way of preserving food and all the incredible benefits that come with it – start making your own homemade food!