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The idea of letting bacteria proliferate among our foods may seem unnatural. Yet fermentation is a process that has been done for thousands of years, which can preserve food and increase its benefits thanks to the use of good bacteria. There are different types of fermentations, amongst which the most commonly known is alcoholic fermentation.
But it’s Lacto-Fermentation that we’re interested in here...
Lacto-fermentation, or lactic fermentation, is a food conservation process which consists of macerating food in the absence of oxygen. This maceration will allow the proliferation of lactic bacteria, which is the bacteria that is very beneficial to our body. The term ‘lactic’ does not mean ‘lactose’, and therefore has no connection with milk.
For this process to take place, foods that are naturally rich in lactic bacteria, mainly vegetables, are mixed with a little salt and possibly some water. It’s also possible to add these bacteria directly (via lactic fermentation) to foods that do not naturally contain them. The food will soak in liquid, which will prevent it from being in contact with air: oxygen is indeed harmful to the development of lactic bacteria.
By limiting their contact with air, lactic bacteria will proliferate. For doing this, they will feed on the sugars present in the food itself and transform it into lactic acid. While these good bacteria proliferate, lactic acid will help destroy pathogenic bacteria that can cause us various diseases.
The preparation will become more and more acidic. After a while, when the lactic acid content reaches a certain threshold, a balance sets up and the fermentation stops. Conservation can then be extended for several years.
Using this process, there are many foods that are Lacto-fermented:
sauerkraut, pickles, pickles, yogurts, sourdough bread, miso, kefir, kombucha...
Our microbiota (or intestinal flora) comprises billions of good bacteria belonging to more than 1000 different species.
This good bacteria is essential to the proper functioning of our organs because they fight against harmful bacteria and pathogenic germs by contributing to their destruction.
They thus help us to defend ourselves against (bad) bacteria, viruses, and other parasites. We know today that an unbalanced microbiota is responsible for various diseases such as obesity, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, certain cancers, mood disorders, neurodegenerative diseases, autoimmune diseases...
Unlike conservation processes, such as sterilization, which destroys a large part of the nutrients, lacto-fermentation helps preserve most of the vitamins and minerals. It goes even beyond that, it increases the nutritional qualities in the food.
The vitamin K, or vitamin content of group B of a fermented vegetable, will be increased more than that of a fresh vegetable.
Lactic fermentation makes it possible to reduce the content of food in anti-nutritional factors such as phytates, which are compounds that prevent the good assimilation of minerals (iron, zinc, magnesium, and calcium) and which can attack the intestinal mucosa.
It’s also possible, and very easy, to make your own fermented vegetables or kombucha. You will find many recipes on the Internet or on YouTube.