Coffee and chocolate…
Wine and white pepper…
Soy sauce and salami…
Well, now that we have your attention, what do you think these items all share in common?
If you’re anything like the team here at Clever, you already know that these are important staples in this thing called life. But, in case you’re still wondering, here’s another hint:
Kimchi, kombucha, and kefir….
Ok, we recognize we have made this somewhat challenging with the alliteration here, but, hopefully you have guessed correctly: all of these products share the beautiful art that is the process of fermentation!
That being said, we must first acknowledge that not all fermented products are created equal as there are not only several different methods of approaching fermentation, there are also different health benefits conferred based on the underlying product being fermented. Yes, nothing about fermentation is simplistic and unfortunately, an evening delight such as that glass(es) of cabernet and a charcuterie board differs significantly from consuming kombucha and a bowl of kimchi as it relates to health benefits.
Naturally fermented foods have gained a lot of traction in the natural products space these days as they help strengthen your gut flora, also known as your gut microbiome, that colony of trillions of healthy microorganisms and bacteria that reside in your digestive tract. A healthy gut microbiome has been linked to improved health outcomes, such as a strong immune system, a decreased risk for cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative diseases, better mood regulation, digestion, and a reduction of inflammatory diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and rheumatoid arthritis to name a few.
Food production aside, fermentation is also used in industrial processes
such as biofuel production, sewage treatment, and the production of hydrogen gas?!
So, what exactly is fermentation?
At the most basic level, fermentation is a metabolic process (wait, scratch that as we like to avoid ambiguous language). Fermentation is a natural process where microorganisms (also known as “microbes”) like yeast and bacteria convert carbohydrates into alcohol or acids. Although historically used by our ancestors as a means of food preservation, fermentation does not equate to an indefinite shelf-life but rather slows down the process of decomposition while adding new flavours or potentially new colors and textures, and, depending on the process and product being fermented, can increase the levels of vitamins and nutrients.
The study of fermentation is called zymology (also known as zymurgy)? Louis Pasteur was the first zymurgist to study fermentation in the 1850’s. It is also where the term pasteurization is derived!
Moreover, fermentation provides an excellent environment for healthy bacteria to grow and reproduce, making those additional nutrients more readily absorbed (also called “bioavailable”), in the body.
Here’s where the role of bioavailability comes in…
Remember that we mentioned how fermentation can increase underlying nutritional benefits and how the growth of good bacteria can make these benefits more readily absorbed by the body? Well, this all takes place within our gut, where those trillions of healthy microorganisms and bacteria reside. The problem is that the majority of the nutrients found in plant-based foods are held up in the cellulose structures of the plant, or rather, the plant cell walls that help the plant remain stiff and strong.
In contrast to our friends in the animal kingdom, when plant-based foods are consumed by us humans these nutrients are poorly absorbed in our digestive tract, if at all. Further, plant-based foods are chalk full of something called phytic acid which bind to other minerals after consumption to create phytates, making them even more inaccessible.
But, remember how we mentioned those microorganisms (microbes, like yeast and bacteria) involved in fermentation convert carbohydrates into alcohol or acids? Similarly, when fermenting plant-based foods, those microbes break down the cellulose structure within the plant by consuming the glucose and other simple sugars that comprise them.
And, we already know you’re wondering: how does fermentation affect the phytic acid that adds to that low nutrient absorption we spoke of earlier? Well, with the cellulose structure of the plant-based food already broken down, fermentation creates an optimal pH level which in turn unbinds the phytic acid from the nutrients, creating a higher rate of absorbability (increased bioavailability) within our intestines.
The key takeaway here is that we should be doing everything we can do to support our health and one of the best pathways to do so is through our diet. By incorporating a diet that is rich in fermented plant-based products we increase the uptake in nutritional benefits, which, in turn, supports our cardiovascular, gut, and immune health, and supports the decreased risk for other complications such as neurodegenerative and inflammatory diseases.
Given the countless benefits and ways to approach fermentation, this edition of Clever Covers will be one of several we create related to fermentation, but for now, we will end this post off similar to how we started…
Bio availability and better absorption….
Good bacteria and gut benefits…
Plant focused products and proprietary fermentation processes…
It all starts with Intelligent Fermentation™