Fermented Foods: Beginners Guide

Fermented Foods: Beginners Guide

by Dr. Marli Botha

Chances are you’ve been eating fermented foods your whole life, maybe without even realising it. So many of the everyday staples we take for granted – like wine, tea, cheese, bread and chocolate – are made using different fermentation processes. As many people are cottoning on to the appeal of naturally fermented food, it’s becoming less scary, and something we increasingly want to do for ourselves at home, rather than relying on industrially produced versions. Many of these have been pasteurised and therefore are no longer ‘alive’, or as health-giving or flavourful.


  1. Fermented foods are defined as foods or beverages produced through controlled microbial growth, and the conversion of food components through enzymatic action.
  2. Fermented foods have undergone a surge in popularity, mainly due to their proposed health benefits.
  3. Fermented foods are preserved using an age-old process that not only boosts the food’s shelf life and nutritional value but can give your body a dose of healthful probiotics — live micro-organisms crucial to good digestion.
  4. Common fermented foods like kombucha, sauerkraut, tempeh, natto, miso, kimchi and sourdough bread have an important impact on the microbiota, and therefore have a positive effect on gastrointestinal health and disease in humans. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6723656/
  5. There are two main methods through which foods are fermented. Firstly, foods can be fermented naturally, often referred to as “wild ferments” or “spontaneous ferments”, whereby the microorganisms are present naturally in the raw food or processing environment, for example sauerkraut, kimchi, and certain fermented soy products. Secondly, foods can be fermented via the addition of starter cultures, known as “culture-dependent ferments”, for example kombucha and natto.
  6. The science of fermentation is known as zymology.
  7. Many pickled or soured foods are fermented as part of the pickling or souring process, but many are simply processed with brine, vinegar, or another acid such as lemon juice.

It is important to mention that no food is meant to be a cure-all for any condition, though there are certainly health and skin benefits contained within them. The one thing you should always do before using a new skin care product is to do a patch test to look for allergies and sensitivities.

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