Between the hard and fast dichotomies of cooked and raw, dead and alive, is this beautiful thing called fermented. A place where many of the digestive challenges associated with raw foods (e.g. enzyme inhibitors, anti-nutrients, lectins) are overcome in favor of not just preserving their benefits (e.g. enzyme activity, vitamin content, life energy), but amplifying them. Also overcome are the adverse consequences of cooking, e.g. enzyme destruction, vitamin activity degradation, oxidized fats, denatured proteins, etc., while still benefiting from the enhanced digestibility and assimilation that certain cooking applications offer. Fermented food is in many ways the complementary union of cooked and raw, as well as their transcendence – an image, not unlike the Tai Chi, comes to mind.
In fact, fermentation has almost heretical power in the realm of both medicine and nutrition, being quite capable of literally "raising the dead," as well, revitalizing and infusing with living and breathing energy a food ingredient that has been cooked into oblivion, or, a human whose body has been poisoned close to the point of death with antibiotics, or similarly biocidal drugs or chemicals.
There is no lack of scientific confirmation for the indisputable value of fermented food for the promotion of health and wellbeing. In fact, one could consider fermented foods like kimchi, natto, apple cider vinegar, and even – in moderation – wine, coffee, chocolate and beer, 'medical foods' of sorts. At GreenMedInfo we have been indexing these functional applications in disease prevention and treatment straight from the research housed on National Library of Medicine, and have found over 140+ diseases that may be prevented or ameliorated by their use. [see: Fermented Food Health Benefits Research]
There are a broad range of fermented foods we could look at to illustrate their power to heal. After all, every single culture on the planet used (not a semantic coincidence:) culturing to sustain themselves. But for this short article we will focus on Asian traditional preparations, since there is already such a huge body of clinical research demonstrating their amazing health effects:
- Kimchi – a probiotic strain isolated from the fermented cabbage preparation kimchi known as Lactobacillus brevis is capable of degrading organophosphorus pesticides.
- Kimchi – a probiotic strain known as Bacillus pumilus found within this fermented food is capable of degrading bisphenol A, a powerful endocrine disruptive chemical.
- Miso – a fermented soy food has been shown, when consumed regularly, to reduce the risk of breast cancer in women by up to 54%.
- Miso – capable of regressing colon cancer growth in the animal model.
- Natto – A fermented soybean extract that has been shown to suppress plaque buildup (as measured by the intima media thickness) in the arteries in an animal model.
- Natto – capable of contributing to nerve regeneration following sciatic nerve crush injury.
This is, of course, only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to illustrating the remarkable properties of fermented food. We encourage our readers to take a look at our extensive database on the subject of the health benefits of fermented food.