3. The Harmful Effects of Fermented Foods
So far, we have only discussed the myths of the supposedly beneficial effects of fermented foods. Can we say that even though these foods may not be particularly beneficial that they are perhaps harmless? No.
Fermented foods are not only ineffective, but they possess harmful properties as well. We have already mentioned that many fermented foods are heavily salted or preserved with vinegar which makes them
harmful. What are some of the other bad properties of these foods?
3.1 The Side-Effects of Fermentation
When foods ferment, or decompose, certain waste products are produced by the bacteria which break down the food. One of these byproducts is alcohol. Many fermented foods, such as soy sauce, contain a significant amount of alcohol. Of course the alcohol in fermented foods is usually a small quantity (unless the fermented food happens to be beer or your favourite shot!), but even small amounts of alcohol affect the cells of the body.
Ammonia is another product of fermentation. Fermented soy may be as much as 15% ammonia. Ammonia is dangerous enough as a house-cleaning agent. You certainly shouldn’t be eating it.
Vinegar, in the form of acetic acid, also results from food fermentation. This acid gives fermented foods their sour or sharp taste. That sharp taste is a signal to the body that the food should not be eaten as it is harmful. Vinegar prevents the digestion of foods, so a food filled with vinegar and other similar byproducts would seem to be indigestible.
Another acid that results from fermentation is lactic acid. Lactic acid is a waste product. If you have
ever exercised or worked harder than usual, you might notice a stiffness or soreness in your muscles. That stiffness results from a buildup of lactic acid in the muscles. Now eating fermented foods that contain lactic acid may not make you “stiff,” but does it seem intelligent to eat foods that are already high in waste byproducts?
Other acids are also present in fermented foods. Carbonic acid is found in fermented foods and also soft drinks. All of these acids are the wastes produced by the bacteria which are feeding on the decomposing, “fermented” foods.
3.2 Fermented Foods Are Low In Nutrition
The foods that are highest in nutrition are those which are eaten in their fresh, natural and unprocessed state. As soon as a food is tampered with in any way, nutrient loss results. The longer a food is held in storage, the lower it becomes in nutrition.
Fermented foods are usually processed or destroyed in some manner. After that, they are often stored and used over a period of weeks or even months. You can eat a pickle that was once a cucumber perhaps one or two years ago, but it is very doubtful if any of the original nutrients remain in that cucumber.
Many times, foods are first heated to a high temperature before fermentation is allowed to occur. Milk is first heated or pasteurized to kill off all bacteria. Then it is inoculated with a specific bacteria strain to ferment it into yogurt. The milk serves merely as a bacteria culture ground.
If heat is not used, then the food is often chopped, sliced, smashed or blended. A whole head of cabbage does not readily “ferment,” but if you bruise and chop it to pieces, then the bacteria will do their natural job of finishing the decomposition process. Whenever foods are cut, chopped or sliced to start the fermentation process, rapid oxidation of the food and a nutrient loss occur.
Another reason given for eating fermented foods is that they are high in B-vitamins, or that they may somehow encourage the body to produce more Vitamin B12 in its intestines. Just the opposite may be true.
According to research, the levels of Vitamin B12 may be reduced by fermented foods. A Bulgarian report indicates that the bacteria within yogurt use the B12 for their own growth. The B12 in kefir (a fermented milk drink) decreases in proportion to its fermentation.
Instead of adding nutritional benefits to the food, fermentation decreases some vitamin and mineral availability.
We’ve explored the myths surrounding fermented foods and described some of the harmful effects that may occur from their use. Now it’s time to name names and discuss each popular fermented food.