What Are Fermented Foods and Beverages

Depending on what types of food you like, you might have tried fermented foods, but you might not have eaten anything like it before. Here we explain: What are fermented foods?

Fermented foods are often included in Asian meals as side dishes to enhance the main dish’s flavor. You can find them in grocery stores and restaurants all around the world.

They are also many benefits of fermented foods. Among them are that they help lower bad cholesterol and improve digestion.

To better understand fermented foods and beverages, let’s talk about what are fermented foods, what does fermented mean, and more.

What Are Fermented Foods 

Fermented foods and beverages have a distinctive appearance, aroma, taste, and texture. People ferment foods to enhance flavor, preserve foods, for traditions, and/or for the health aspects. Fermented foods contain viable probiotics or healthy microorganisms.

By definition, fermented foods have undergone fermentation and controlled microbial growth. It’s a process in which microorganisms — examples are bacteria and yeast — work to break down food components into other products. This anaerobic process breaks it down to gases, alcohol, and organic acids. 

Most people consume fermented foods for their nutritional values or health benefits. Others just consume some of these items as side dishes for better palatability and relief from food oiliness and sweetness. If you make fermented foods at home, taking safety precautions is essential.

Pickled vs Fermented Foods

Some people assume that pickled and fermented foods are the same, but they’re not. Pickled food is preserved in an acidic liquid, usually vinegar, which is a fermentation product.

The difference is that the main ingredient in pickling techniques isn’t fermented, so they won’t offer the same health benefits as fermented foods.

Fermentation Process

When it comes to understanding what fermented foods are and answering what does fermented mean, we must understand the process of fermentation.

The fermentation technique has been around for centuries but was initially used to preserve foods and beverages when refrigeration hasn’t been discovered yet.

Generally, fermentation is when an organic compound goes through chemical changes with effervescence.

The process changes the compound’s chemical breakdown and makes the food taste different from its original state.

When it comes to beverage and food fermenting, it means that the carbohydrates are converted to alcohol or safe acid by way of bacteria or yeast under certain anaerobic conditions.

It is done on purpose for the desired effect in the ingredient such as post-harvest preservation, nutritional enrichment, bio-preservation, and specific health-promoting benefits.

Although it is a process that might seem complicated, you can safely ferment food at home.

Making your own fermented food at home is easy and affordable. You only need a few and simple ingredients.

Vegetables such as beetroot, cabbage, carrots, turnip, and radish are the easiest to ferment.

That is because they already have healthy bacteria living on their surfaces that can do the fermenting for you.

Make sure that you also use organic and fresh produce. We also suggest adding prebiotic-rich or fiber-rich ingredients like asparagus, artichokes, and onions to enjoy their health benefits.

Keep in mind that food can also ferment by accident with the presence of environmental bacteria or yeast. However, that is not the same process as foods that you try to ferment.

Also, since food fermenting and fermented foods and beverages are becoming more and more popular, you can already find a lot of commercially available fermented products.

List of Fermented Foods 

Here is a list of fermented foods. You can use it to look for pre-made fermented foods in the grocery store, order in restaurants, or to learn what you can make on your own.

Kimchi

Kimchi is a popular Korean side dish. You may find other restaurants serve it as well. It is usually made using cabbage, but you can also find ones made of radishes and other vegetables.

Besides being a side dish, you can also use kimchi in salads and sandwiches. You can also mix kimchi with eggs to make an omelet, use it as a fried rice ingredient, or simply add it to your soup for spiciness.

Kimchi is also a popular option for many people because it is a simple dish to make.

Tempeh

As a form of plant-based or vegetarian protein, tempeh is somewhat similar to tofu. The difference is that it is made through the fermentation process and has a nuttier flavor and firmer texture than tofu.

You can bake, steam, or saute tempeh, and then consume it as is or use it as a dish ingredient.

Unpasteurized Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is a fermented food people use commonly as a condiment. You can also use this as a topping for a casserole, sandwich, or inside a stew.

This food is similar to kimchi since it is made with shredded cabbage, but fermented with lactic acid bacteria that changes the taste a bit.

It is also a great option to put on hot dogs since it tends to have a somewhat similar or complementary taste to mustard.

Probiotic Yogurts

Yogurt is one fermented food you have likely had before, even if you haven’t tried any of the other items on the list.

It is a staple of the American diet and often comes in different fruit flavors. Yogurt is made from fermented milk, which provides you with the digestive help you need to keep your body feeling its best.

Just make sure you focus on options that advertise the use of live cultures and probiotics on the labels.

what are fermented foods
examples of fermented foods

Kombucha

Eating fermented foods is a unique experience. The taste of the sour flavor can be unusual to some people. They also often have a bubbling effect on the tongue as you eat them.

As such, fermented food is not to everyone’s taste. So, if you want to find another way to get fermented items into your diet, a drink is the best option.

A classic fermented drink called kombucha is a great-tasting option that will make it easy to get the good bacteria that you need into your system.

Kombucha is an effervescent black or green tea fermented and flavored with fruit or herbs. Stores sell it in many flavor combinations. It often comes with a bit of a tangy flavor that is nicely offset with the fruits’ sweet flavors.

High in probiotics, kombucha can help to lower blood sugar levels, support liver health, and can lower heart disease risk factors.

Miso

Miso is fermented soybean paste. The miso itself is a type of paste made out of soybeans, rice, and barley. It adds a nice salty and savory flavor to the soup.

You can find miso soup as an appetizer in Japanese or Vietnamese cuisines. This light and refreshing soup contains vegetable broth, miso, carrots, water chestnuts, and onions.

That said, this paste does have a high amount of sodium, so you will want to use a little bit at a time.

You can also use this fermented miso paste in other dishes like salads, meat, or seafood marinades.

Kefir

Kefir is a cultured dairy product. Think of it as having a similar taste and texture as yogurt. It is a drink made by adding kefir grains, which is a mixture of bacteria and yeasts, to regular milk.

As a liquid substance, you can drink it on its own, blend it into a fruit and veggie smoothie, or even cook with it.

Are Fermented Foods Bad for You?

Fermented foods seem like they have all the benefits you need to live a healthier lifestyle.

However, there are side effects that could be harmful to those who eat fermented foods infrequently, and for the first time.

What Happens if You Eat Too Much Fermented Food?

Although there seems to be no serious or life-threatening issue that will arise from eating lots of fermented foods, you want to eat them in moderation.

Bacteria present in the examples of fermented foods listed above can give you excessive gas and bloat if you eat too much at once. You can avoid this by eating smaller amounts of fermented foods at a time.

Fermented Foods and Beverages

If you didn’t know what fermented foods and beverages were, how they’re produced, what items to purchase or consider, you now have the essential information about these tasteful and healthy foods.

With a variety of options to choose from, you can have all different kinds of meals each day and create a wider palate.

It’s a great way to preserve and store food long term.

From using kimchi as a side dish and putting sauerkraut in your casserole to drinking miso and eating yogurt as a dessert, you have a large number of ways to prepare these products that can make your meals more exciting.

Incorporating each of these options throughout the week can help you gain the many benefits that they provide your body, and can improve your overall health.

Lastly, since you already know what happens if you eat too much fermented foods and beverages, make sure not to go overboard and add too much to your diet at one time.

Learn more about preserving food: 

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