Why did humans begin fermenting foods?
Human evolution is strongly intertwined with fermentation both as means to improve the digestibility of otherwise hard-to-digest foods and the ability to process fermentation-derived organic compounds like alcohol. This interconnection between human culture and microbial culture is so deeply ingrained that when we look for an original ground-zero for human-directed fermentation, we find ourselves going further back deep into the mists of prehistory and even further into our prehuman past. By the time the historical record begins in the 4th millennium in the Fertile Crescent of Southwest Asia, it is clear that humans and microbes had already been evolving together for ages, with fermentation serving an irreplaceable role in human diet, economy, and religion. And as human cultures developed socially and economically throughout the ensuing millennia, we also find that fermentation appears as a near-constant central feature of human life.
Fermentation Increases Micro and Macro Nutrients
Lactic acid fermentation can be used to ferment grains, legumes, vegetables, and other foods. All of these foods, when fermented traditionally, come out more nutritious than their regular state. For example, fermented cabbage, also known as sauerkraut, has been shown to have a higher level of fiber and vitamins C and K than cabbage alone.
Fermentation also increases the bioavailability of amino acids and vitamin-C and A in legumes, grains, fruits, and vegetables. Fermentation also increases the number of B-vitamins present in the food.
That being said, just because there are nutrients available in a food doesn’t mean they will be absorbed, which brings us to the next section.
Fermentation Increases Absorption
Anti-nutrients are compounds that bind to nutrients, making it difficult or impossible for our bodies to absorb them. One anti-nutrient, called phytic acid or phytate, binds to minerals such as calcium, zinc, and iron, making them unavailable to the body. Fermentation deactivates the phytic acid in these foods allowing for better nutritional absorption.
The Enzymatic Benefits of Fermented Food
Phytate and other anti-nutrients can also become enzyme inhibitors, blocking necessary enzymes from digesting certain nutrients such as starches or proteins. If we don’t have the enzymes to break down these nutrients we can’t absorb them. Fermentation can help eliminate these enzyme inhibitors, unlocking the nutrition and making food easier to digest. Fermentation even creates some enzymes during the process that can help with digestion and nutrient absorption. Wild, isn’t it? Fermentation can really transform your food into a much healthier food. Sourdough bread, sauerkraut, and fermented legumes and grains are foods that have been traditionally fermented to be easier on the digestive tract and better for our health.
So What Does This All Mean?
In short, fermentation has many benefits, but most notably, fermentation has an incredible impact on the foods we eat. Fermented food, like saurkraut, kimchi and sourdough, are much more nutrient rich and bioavailable than their non-fermented version.
It also means that the ingredients used across all Living Alchemy products are more potent because they're fermented. We produce our formulas using a traditional fermentation process that contains diverse strains of microorganisms from a kefir and kombucha living culture. This process we call Symbio® delivers the complete, activated herb within a living food matrix for exceptional bioavailability and effectiveness.
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