The trillions of tiny creatures living in and on our bodies are nowadays receiving a lot of attention. And for good reasons, these good bacteria may, amongst others, improve digestion, boost immunity and stimulate mental health. Research is still emerging on just how important these mighty microbes might be for our health. Besides taking probiotics there are other ways to encourage their growth. For example, by eating fermented foods. Fermented foods contain beneficial microbes, digestive enzymes, and health boosting nutrients. But, what exactly happens during fermentation? 










The process of fermentation

By Wout Wolken, fermentation specialist at Winclove Probiotics


Fermented foods and beverages, whether of plant or animal origin, play an important role in the diet of people in many parts of the world. Fermented foods not only provide important sources of nutrients but have also great potential in maintaining health and preventing diseases. Lactic acid bacteria and yeasts are the major group of microorganisms associated with traditional fermented foods.

As early as 1856 Louis Pasteur devoted himself to the study of fermentation; the conversion of sugars in the absence of oxygen, resulting in the formation of acids or alcohol. However, long before that humans have produced foodstuffs by means of fermentation. For instance, beer was of central importance to ancient Egyptian society.








"There are 3 ways of starting fermentation"







Fermentation can be started in three ways:


Firstly, so called spontaneous fermentation. Many raw materials already contain the microorganisms necessary to start the fermentation – for instance, the cabbage leaves used for sauerkraut production already contain all the lactic acid bacteria necessary to produce the acid to put the “sauer” in sauerkraut. The only thing needed to start the process is to compress the leaves to create an anaerobic environment and to add some salt to avoid growth of unwanted microorganisms.


Secondly, by so called back slopping – the use of some leftover material from a previous successful batch to start a new batch. For example, adding a bit of left over yogurt to a fresh batch of milk to produce a new batch of yogurt.


Thirdly, the use of a starter cultures - to avoid failed batches and eliminate contamination risks the use of commercially produced starters or starter cultures (basically stabilized pure preparations of microorganisms) is now common practice in in the dairy industry.


The term fermentation technology is now widely used with respect to any large scale production of microorganism for instance in the production of probiotics.








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