Fermented vegetables have existed since the mists of time, and humans have learned to master their production because of their many benefits.
Indeed, lacto-fermentation is an excellent ally for our health, as well as preserving food safely and creating addictive flavours.
Why eat fermented vegetables?
Fermented vegetables are easier to digest, rich in nutrients, safe, and good for the microbiota. Most importantly, they are delicious!
Here are 6 interesting benefits of fermented vegetables, including its many health benefits!
Jump directly to the section that interests you:
- Fermented vegetables are easier to digest
- Fermented foods are richer in nutrients
- Lacto-fermentations strengthen our microbiota
- Lacto-fermentation preserves food safely
- Lacto-fermentation creates new flavours
- Lacto-fermentation is easy to do
1. Fermented Vegetables Are Easier to Digest
Did you know that vegetables are much more digestible when fermented? Lacto-fermentation is a great ally of our digestive system.
In fact, lactic acid bacteria “predigest” food for us during fermentation.
They create enzymes and break down some of the large molecules that are difficult to assimilate by our digestive system.
Among other things, fermentation reduces carbohydrates as well as some components (oligosaccharides) that cause flatulence and digestion problems. (ref.)
Fermented cabbage (sauerkraut), for example, is much more digestible than raw cabbage and will cause less discomfort.
Fermented foods also help support the digestive system. Fermented vegetables are proven to help reduce the symptoms of chronic gastrointestinal diseases, such as irritable bowel syndrome. (ref.)
2. Fermented Foods Contain Higher Levels of Nutrients
Fermentation increases the nutritional value of food, the bioavailability of nutrients, and the enzyme concentration, in addition to neutralizing several toxic substances.
Contrary to canned vegetables, fermented vegetables retain all their nutrients and vitamins. Their nutritional value can even increase!
In fact, during fermentation, microorganisms generate various nutrients such as vitamin C, B group vitamins (including the famous B12), and vitamin K.
Bacteria also consume sugar from vegetables.
Lacto-fermentation can also destroy or neutralize several toxic substances such as cyanide (ref.), phytates, and saponins (ref..). Incredible, isn’t it?
By lacto-fermenting cassava root (manioc), you can reduce its cyanide concentration by more than 70%! (ref.)
But that’s not all! Fermentation makes the nutrients that are present in vegetables available, a process called “bioavailability”.
The work of the bacteria enables to breaking down of large molecules and releasing of nutrients, which can then be absorbed by our bodies.
Indeed, studies have shown that iron (ref.) and zinc (ref.) are more easily absorbed through fermented vegetables.
Lacto-fermentation also releases proteins, amino acids, vitamins, and antioxidants (ref.). Real energy foods!
Also, eating fermented foods together with a meal helps to absorb nutrients from other foods through the effect of enzymes. (ref.) (ref.)
All the more reason to have fermented vegetables at every meal!
3. Fermentation Reinforces Our Microbiota
Lacto-fermented foods are an important source of probiotics and prebiotics. By incorporating them into our diet, they help support and strengthen our digestion and health.
Digestion depends largely on the microbiota, also known as the second brain.
The microbiota gathers all the bacteria, yeast, and other microorganisms that live on and in our bodies, more than one hundred thousand billion microorganisms divided into more than 3,000 species! (ref.)
These microorganisms live in symbiosis with our body and carry out many biological processes.
The microbiota plays a role in the body’s defence system, in the regulation of blood pressure, and the digestion of food. (ref.)
It can even influence our eating habits and choices!
Fermented Foods and Probiotics
Probiotics aren’t just found in yogurt!
Microorganisms that have a beneficial effect on our health are found in large quantities in all lacto-fermented foods. (ref.)
Research on this topic is still in development. There is so much to discover! However, lactic acid bacteria found in fermented vegetables may have several benefits: cancer prevention (ref.), decrease in cholesterol absorption(ref.), and reduction of food allergies (ref.).
Fermented Foods and Prebiotics
Lacto-fermentations are prebiotic foods (ref.), meaning that they are beneficial to the microorganisms in the digestive system.
Indeed, fermented vegetables are rich in fibre and are very digestible. Once in our bodies, they feed the good bacteria that live in us.
Consumption of prebiotics is believed to be connected to a better immune system and may also help reduce inflammation. (ref.)
4. Fermentation Is a Safe Way to Preserve Food
Safe food preservation is one of the great benefits of lacto-fermentation.(ref.) Technically, fermented food is safer than raw food.
Indeed, the bacteria involved in lacto-fermentation produce acid (lactic acid) to protect themselves from foreign microorganisms.
The environment (like your sauerkraut) becomes then totally unliveable for undesirable microorganisms such as E. coli, botulism, salmonella, etc.
And the result? Food will be packed with good bacteria that protect it and can be stored for years to come! A well-prepared lacto-fermentation is therefore safe and harmless. (ref.)
Want to know more? See Are there any dangers to lacto-fermentation?
Editor’s note: We even have a testimony from a kimchi producer in Estrie (Quebec) whose chili pepper had been contaminated with salmonella. However, after fermentation, there was no trace of salmonella!
We cannot draw any formal conclusion that fermentation could destroy all bad bacteria, but it gives an example of the overall concept.
5. Fermentation Produces New Flavours
The taste of lacto-fermentations is tangy and full of nuances, and frankly delicious.
Indeed, fermentation creates dozens of new gustative components. For example, in basic fermented celery, we can find notes of citrus fruits or even anise!
Besides, some lacto-fermentations produce umami, the fifth addictive and tasty flavour. (ref.)
Fermented foods are therefore used as flavour enhancers. Any boring dish can shine with the addition of sauerkraut, kimchi, or a simple pickle!
The Noma restaurant, named 4 times the best restaurant in the world, includes fermented foods in each of its dishes. Fermentation is its secret to offering gastronomic experiences out of the ordinary.
The good news is that lacto-fermentation is easy to integrate into your diet. Lacto-fermentation adds colour, flavour, and texture to your meals. Much more enjoyable than eating probiotic pills!
Moreover, fermented vegetables are suitable for a wide range of diets. Lacto-fermentation is:
- Minimally processed
Fermentation is an integral part of a healthy and balanced diet.
6. Lacto-fermentation Is Easy to Do
Finally, the biggest advantage of lacto-fermentation is that it is safe and easy to do at home. You can therefore enjoy all its delicious benefits any time!
To successfully carry out a lacto-fermentation, you probably already have everything you need in your kitchen:
- A jar
Compressing the vegetables with salt in a jar creates an oxygen-free environment, perfect for good lactic acid bacteria. No need to bring out the heavy artillery: basic fermentation equipment is sufficient.
Then, we let it ferment for a few weeks and that’s it! We have healthy and delicious fermented vegetables.
You don’t dare to start? Discover our 5 tips for successful fermentations and 5 mistakes to avoid.
- Read our Complete Guide on Fermenting Vegetables
- Discover the Benefits of Fermented Foods According to a Pharmacist
- Browse the Benefits of Kimchi According to Science
- Read How to Eat Fermented Vegetables
- Discover our Fermentation Equipment
- Try our Fermented Vegetables Recipes