5 Foods You Never Knew Are Fermented
“You say fermented and I say kefir!”
With fermented products gaining sway because of their health benefits, most of us associate the word fermented food with something like kefir or sauerkraut.
However before modern science and modern interest in health, humans used fermentation largely to simply keep stuff from spoiling! In olden days we made most of our preserved foods and drinks via fermentation, and they were thereby probiotic.
It is still common knowledge that beer and wine are made via fermentation. But what other of our traditional favorites are actually still fermented foodstuffs?
I did some digging, and stumbled across these 5 unlikely candidates.
Note on Probiotic Value:
While a food might be a product of fermentation, this does not guarantee that it holds probiotic benefits. If the food has been exposed to heat subsequent to being fermented, the probiotic bacteria will be killed and the food will not contain probiotics. What is interesting to note however is that while a fermented food which has been cooked is no longer probiotic, it is still often easier to digest than in unfermented form.
Salami?? Yes, salami is made via a process of air curing and fermentation. In fact, the definition of salami is fermented sausages. Sausages are inoculated with strains of probiotic bacteria and left to cure.
Salami is a Probiotic!
Unlike many other foodstuff which are now made synthetically, salami is still made using fermentation, as fermentation is the only way to get the signature salami flavors. To make things even better, salami remains probiotic because there is not heat applied during the process which might kill off the probiotic bacteria produced during fermentation.
Some types of salamis are also smoked during curing. However it is recommended that the smoke does not rise above the temperature of the fermenting sausages. So most salami which you can buy should still be a fermented and probiotic food!
#2 Corned Beef
Corned beef is another fermented meat product. Mass produced brands of corned beef might be synthetically cured, but good quality corned beef or homemade corned beef is cured via fermentation!
If you are familiar with making sauerkraut and other lacto fermented vegetables, then this will make sense. Like old fashioned pickles, corned beef is also cured in a brine, without added vinegar. Lactic acid bacteria develop, lending the tart pickled taste as they produce natural acids, thereby curing the meat.
Not a Probiotic When Eaten
Unfortunately, while corned beef is a fermented food and therefore probably more easily digested than ordinary cooked meat, it is not a probiotic when eaten. This is because corned beef is cooked before being eaten. The heat from cooking destroys the probiotics.
#3 Tabasco Sauce
The branded hot sauce called Tobasco Sauce is a fermented product. Tabasco Sauce is known to be made by fermenting the peppers used in it for up to 3 years in barrels! The fermented peppers are then strained to remove pulp and seeds.
Since Tobasco Sauce is not heat treated and does not contain chemical additives, it might also be slightly probiotic. Because Tobasco Sauce also contains vinegar, some of its probiotic qualities are lost because of this. When vinegar is added to a ferment, the vinegar kills off a certain spectrum of probiotic bacteria. This is the reason why pickles preserved with a vinegar solution are not as probiotic in nature as those which are naturally fermented.
Chocolate and cocoa is another foodstuff which strangely enough is a fermented product! On cocoa farms the cocoa beans are placed in piles after being harvested, and allowed to ferment. This fermenting of the cocoa beans is a vital part to the process of making good chocolate.
When cocoa beans are in their fresh and unfermented state, they contain high levels of tannins. The fermentation process removes some of these tannins, prevents the chocolate from becoming too bitter, and develops flavor profiles.
While cocoa powder is fermented after harvesting, it does not have any probiotic value. The reason for this is that after being fermented, the beans are roasted at fairly high temperatures. This kills any probiotics present.
Of course nowadays there are brands of chocolate which state that they are “raw”, which could lead one to believe that they would also be probiotic. However be aware that this is could often be misinformation.
At current date there are no legal standards for “raw” products. This means that there are no independent, third party certifications for “raw” food items. The term raw has morphed a bit of buzz word, and not all products which have the word raw on the packaging are necessary that.
Besides being usually roasted for good flavor to develop, cocoa powder also has to go through other processes. Some of these involve high levels of heat, such as high speed grinding. During grinding the cocoa can easily reach temperatures exceeding 130 degrees Fahrenheit. This alone would render the cocoa not “raw”, and definitely not probiotic.
#5 Soya Sauce
True soya sauce is another product of fermentation. Take note however, not all soya sauce is fermented. Many commercial brands make a ‘soya sauce’ which is produce via a chemical process in one day. These kinds of soya sauces can be incredibly unhealthy when one takes a close look at them. In 2001, 25% of commercial soy sauces in the UK were found by inspectors to contain levels of chloropropanols deemed dangerous to health. The products were recalled by authorities from store shelves. New Zealand and Australia soon followed suit.
In short, non-fermented soya sauces contain a variety of harmful chemicals linked to DNA malfunction, cancer, and Parkinson’s disease. It can also be unsafe to consume these synthetic soya sauces if you are on MAOI drugs.
Real Soya Sauce is Probiotic and You can Still Get it!
On the other hand, real soya sauce is a whole different story. Sometimes fermented for up to 6 months, high quality soya sauce which has not been pasteurized is a probiotic. There are some brands available on Amazon which specifically do not pasteurize their soya sauce, in order for it to retain its probiotic benefits.
Besides the health benefits, real fermented soya sauce is much tastier than synthetically made soya sauce. Synthetic soya sauce tends to often be harsh, salty, opaque and often thick. Naturally fermented soya sauce has a balanced flavor profile and is semi transparent.
Seeing as humans have been using fermentation to preserve and cure foods for thousands of years, it is no wonder that we are unknowingly surrounded by fermented foodstuffs. Not all fermented foodstuffs are probiotic in nature though. Some of them might be subject to heat treatment after being fermented, or have to be cooked before consumption.
However most fermented foods are easier to digest than their unfermented counterparts. Food which has been preserved via fermentation is also far superior to eat in terms of health than food which has been preserved using chemicals. And some items such as salami and soya sauce are still available in a probiotic state.
If you are curious about the healing abilities and health benefits of probiotics found in fermented foods, take a look at 8 Awesome Reasons to Eat Fermented Foods. And if you are interested in finding more fermented items which remain probiotic at the point of consumption, have a look at 10 Must Eat Fermented Foods For a Healthy Gut.