Add Depth to your Diet with Fermented Foods

What is fermentation?

Fermentation is an ancient technique of food and drinks preservation. It is a process in which Bacteria, Yeast, and Fungi convert sugar and starch into alcohol and acids. These compounds act as preservatives and greatly improve the taste and texture of food. Fermented foods have a strong aroma and a distinct sour/salty taste. There are primarily two types of fermentation: Natural or Spontaneous and foods that are fermented with a starter culture. Spontaneous fermentation occurs when the microbes present in the food naturally initiate the fermentation process. The other way is by the introduction of starter culture. For instance, Kefir or Sauerkraut is the end product of natural fermentation. On the other hand, a starter culture is used for the production of Kimchi. Fermentation is also used in the making of bread, yogurt, and cheese.

Nutritional profile of fermented fruits and vegetables

The nutritional status of fermented fruits and vegetables depends a lot on the microbes at work, the nutritional combination of key ingredients, and even the environment in which these foods are fermented. Fermentation of fruits and vegetables produces lactic acid which has potential metabolic, cardiovascular, and immune system health benefits. Certain fruits and vegetables when fermented, become a high source of Vitamins and also act as a prebiotic. Lactic acid produced from the fermentation of fruits and vegetables makes them a great source of Vitamins such as Niacin, Biotin, and Thiamine. These are also good for gut health. Here is a list of common fruits and vegetables that are fermented: · Root vegetables such as carrot, radish, turnip, beet, and sweet potatoes · Citrus fruits such as lemons and sweet lime · Fruits such as apples, mangoes, and pears · Cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage and cauliflower · Tomato, onions, cucumber, peas, and lady’s finger

Fermented fruits and vegetables that score high on our list


Kimchi is a fermented cabbage dish that originates in Korea. It can also be made from radishes. It has an array of health benefits such as cholesterol reduction, decreased insulin resistance, and lowered blood pressure. It has an array of health benefits such as cholesterol reduction, decreased insulin resistance, and lowered blood pressure. Kimchi is commonly sliced and added to soups and hotpots or chopped to be stirred through the rice. A whole leaf can be used as a wrap for meat, fish, or shellfish. Most often it is sliced and enjoyed as a piquant side dish.


This is a popular condiment that is made with shredded cabbage fermented with lactic acid bacteria. Besides Vitamin C and K, it also contains a good amount of lutein and other antioxidants that promote eye health. Sauerkraut can be added to soups and stews; cooked with stock, beer or wine; served with sausages or salted meats, and is especially good with smoked fish, like hot-smoked salmon.

Pickled fruits and vegetables

Pickles from different types of fruits and vegetables work as excellent meal accompaniments and are used in India and other parts of the world. These include vinegar onions, pickled carrots, cauliflower, and raw mango. Different types of onions such as sweet, white, and yellow are used in the fermentation process. The fermentation of beetroot and carrot juice is done with the help of brewer’s yeast which enhances the overall vitamin and mineral content.

Role of ingredients used in fruit and vegetable fermentation

· Addition of salt – Salt is added in dry form or as a brine solution. The role of salt is to inhibit the growth of certain enzymes which cause vegetable softening and putrefaction · Sugar – this aids the growth of certain bacteria or yeast which accelerates the fermentation process · Herbs and spices – some aromatic spices such as cloves, chili, and turmeric inhibit the growth of spoilage bacteria and also have strong antibacterial properties

Key benefits

Soaring in popularity, fermented fruits and vegetables are making a huge comeback. Loaded with nutrients, here are some of the key benefits that they offer.

Enhancing food quality and safety

Fermented fruits and vegetables promote digestibility. Post-fermentation, the Vitamin, and Mineral content of these fruits and vegetables is greatly enhanced. Lactic acid produced during fermentation increases the absorption of Iron, Phosphorous, and Vitamin D.

Remove anti-nutrient compounds

Many fruits and vegetables contain toxic compounds. Fermentation helps to reduce their toxicity.

Health benefits for humans

Some of the major health benefits are increased mineral absorption, enhanced immunity, improved digestibility, lower cholesterol, and a lesser risk of cancer.

Bio preservation

People are becoming increasingly conscious about clean eating and the kind of additives used in foods to keep them safe and disease-free. Foods that are naturally preserved through fermentation vis-à-vis the use of artificial and chemical preservatives are preferred. It is important to note that fruits and vegetables contain a diverse group of prebiotic compounds which attract and stimulate the growth of probiotics. These are essential to improve the overall quality of food and prevent certain diseases.

Time-tested recipes from the nutritionist’s desk


Kanji is a very healthy probiotic drink made with carrots, spices, and water. It is great for digestion and keeps the gut healthy.


● 3 Red/black Carrots ● 2 tbsp. Beetroot sliced ● 3/4 cup Turnip, optional ● 2.5 tbsp. Mustard seeds/ Rai ● 1.5 tbsp. Red chili powder ● 1.5 tsp Black Salt/ Kala Namak ● 1/2 tsp Turmeric/ Haldi ● 1/4 tsp Asafoetida/ Hing ● Salt to taste


1. Wash and peel carrots and slice them into pieces that are medium in thickness 2. Boil water in a big pan and when it starts to boil, add the carrots and beetroot. Switch off the flame and wait for 5 minutes(you can skip this step and directly use raw carrot and vegetables in the kanji) 3. Take a glass jar, add 1.5 liters of water and all the spices and mix well 4. Now add the vegetables and keep the jar in a warm place 5. When the water becomes sour it's ready to use. It may take 4-8 days to ferment 6. You can serve the kanji as an appetizer or beverage. Carrots can be served with kanji or as a salad

Gundruk and Sinki Soup

Rich in lactic acid, Gundruk is said to increase milk production in lactating mothers. Sinki is a probiotic and helps to cure indigestion, diarrhea, and stomach pain.


● 50 gm - gundruk/sinki (fermented Leafy Green Vegetables) ● 1 - onion, chopped ● 1 - tomato, chopped ● 2 - dry red chilies ● 1/2 tbsp. - turmeric powder ● 1 tsp - salt


1. Soak gundruk/sinki in water for 10 mins 2. Heat oil and fry chopped onions, tomatoes, chilies 3. Drain gundruk/sinki and add to the onions. Fry for a few mins 4. Add turmeric powder and salt, and then pour 2 cups of water 5. Boil for 10 mins, and serve hot with cooked rice

Fermenting guidelines for best results

● Use only an appropriate amount of salt. Ideally, the fermented veggies and fruits should only taste slightly saltier than you would like and less salty than seawater ● Use only fresh, clean, and seasonal produce to get the best results in terms of fermentation ● Fermentation is best done in the autumn and winter months. Veggies that ferment in warmer temperatures are soft, slimy and not very pleasant to taste