WHAT EXACTLY IS IT?
Think of fermentation as a benign form of rot, where strains of live bacteria and fungi are allowed to grow in foods, giving them a different texture and taste. Put off yet? Don’t be. This age-old tradition has given us some of life’s best things, including wine, bread, cheese, coffee and chocolate. Each of these foods starts off as bitter, bland or simply indigestible, but is transformed by microbes into something delicious. Since the fermentation process predigests the food, thanks to the live bacteria feeding on it, our bodies absorb the nutrients more easily.
In certain foods like sourdough, soya, yoghurt and miso, these microbes add an additional health kick. “Fermentation removes some toxins from foods, increases B-vitamins, and generates other unique nutritive compounds. But the most profound benefit comes from the bacteria themselves, which are alive and intact in cultured foods,” says Sandor Katz, writer and fermentation revivalist. A good example is the yoghurt we make at home: it’s made by heating milk to kill unhealthy bacteria, then a dollop of existing yoghurt with live culture is added and the mix is allowed to ferment for a few hours. This becomes an all-you-can-eat buffet for the healthy bacteria that do things like consume the milk’s hard-to-digest lactose, transforming it into lactic acid, a by-product of digestion-aiding enzymes.
CAN BACTERIA REALLY B