First of all, what is Lactic Fermentation?
Fermentation is what happens when microorganisms break down food and produce beneficial acids and gases. Lactic or Lacto fermentation is the name given to the process of lactobacilli breaking down food in a controlled environment to help digest hard-to-process sugars and turn them into acids that rebuild your body’s ability to digest food.
Lacto fermentation is an ancient form of food preservation that was the ancestor of staple foods we have today such as bread, wine, and cheese. Basely, it is the bubbles you find in sourdough, the fizzy-ness of juice left out on the counter too long, and the sharp taste of milk that is a little past it’s due date. You see, on every vegetable, in every lump of bread dough and even in the air around you, there are bacteria and yeasts that love to feast on our food, if we let them.
When you prepare food in a way that is hospitable to our friends the lactobacilli and allow a fermentation period for your food before eating or cooking with it, that practice is called lacto fermentation, and it is getting more popular every day.
Fermented food and drinks are alive, in a very literal way. They have a distinctive flavor and aroma that ranges from light and bubbly to strong and pronounced. Think of the smell of sauerkraut, pickles, and fresh baked, warm sourdough bread.
You may think that this is gross. Why would you sour perfectly good food? Well, because it is good for you and because it is a delicious way to make your diet healthier and more diverse in beneficial bacteria. Do you like cheese? Sourdough bread? Wine? Ale? Sauerkraut? These foods all started with basic lactic fermentation of milk, wheat, grapes, barley and cabbage.
So, what are the health benefits of lacto fermentation?
Lactic fermentation not only preserves vitamins and minerals already present in food, but it breaks down the hard-to-digest vitamins and sugars, making them easier for your body to process. The lactic fermentation of milk can be a great option for the lactose intolerant, for lactobacilli feast on the milk sugar lactose and produces a healthy and easy-to-digest lactic acid. Lacto fermenting grain and legumes can and will greatly increase the health benefits and digestibility of both food groups.
Lacto fermentation creates new vitamins, as well. These include but are not limited to:
- Folic acid
- B 12
Lactobacilli can also produce omega-3 fatty acids, crucial to your body’s cell structure and even brain and immune system function.
How do I get started and find out more?
There are loads more information to be found in books, online and periodicals dedicated to the rediscovery of this ancient form of food preservation and preparation. Websites such as Cultures for Health and GNOWFGLINS are priceless resources to the new food fermenter. They provide endless information, articles, recipes, supplies, how-to articles, and one-on-one help and guidance.
There are e-classes, e-books and an entire community of other people culturing and fermenting foods who will share their experiences and share advice to help you get started on your way to a healthier, wider and more flavorful diet of cultured and fermented foods.