Fermentation is the process of converting carbohydrates into alcohol and carbon dioxide or organic acids, using yeasts, bacteria or a combination. The science of fermentation is known as Zymology. Fermentation is used to produce alcoholic beverages and is also used in the preservation techniques of foods.
Food fermentation has been said to serve five main purposes: Enrichment of the diet through development of a diversity of flavors, aromas and textures in food substrates; preservation of substantial amounts of food through lactic acid, alcohol, acetic acid and alkaline fermentations; biological enrichment of food substrates with protein, essential amino acids, essential fatty acids and vitamins; elimination of anti-nutrients; and a decrease in cooking times and fuel requirements.
Another benefit to fermented foods that has been explored more over time is their ability to provide our gastrointestinal tract with the good bacteria it needs in order to perform optimally (see the article on Probiotics)
In the early 1900s scientist started studying gut ecology and determined that a balance in gut flora helped to prevent infection and maintain good health. Eating fermented foods including sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir, miso, soy, kombucha and kimchee supplies your gut with beneficial bacteria (like Lactobacillus) that can help improve various imbalances such as constipation, fibromyalgia and inflammation of the gut.
It is also good to be aware of the fact that some people can be “triggered” by fermented foods, which can make conditions like migraines or candidiasis worse. The source and preparation of the food also needs to be taken into account because improperly fermented foods can be a source of botulism. Do not be afraid of fermented foods; just be aware of their quality and source.