What is lactic acid bacteria in fermented foods? Fermented foods uses a process called lacto-fermentation, anything that is fermented is 'transformed' due to bacteria or yeast chemical reactions.
Lactic acid organisms are in fermented foods because the process of carbohydrate fermentation produces them.
“Lactic acid bacteria are among the most important groups of microorganisms used in food fermentation. They contribute to the taste and texture of fermented products and inhibit food spoilage bacteria by producing growth-inhibiting substances and large amounts of lactic acid. As agents of fermentation LAB are involved in making yogurt, cheese, cultured butter, sour cream, sausage, cucumber pickles, olives and sauerkraut, but some species may spoil beer, wine and processed meats.”
-Textbook of Bacteriology.
Why is it important?
The lactobacillus organisms lowers carbohydrate content of the food and the pH. When the pH is lowered, the inhibition of harmful microorganisms' kicks in. They protect the foods from bad bacteria coming in!
They also contribute to the shelf life of the product by acting as a natural preservative.
Before we used lab-produced chemicals to preserve our food, we had natural bacteria that nature created.
This acidification process enhances the flavour AND the nutrient profile of fermented foods.
According to Sally Fallon (Nourishing Traditions author) “The proliferation of lactobacilli in fermented vegetables enhances their digestibility and increases vitamin levels. These beneficial organisms produce numerous helpful enzymes as well as antibiotic and anticarcinogenic substances. Their main by-product, lactic acid, not only keeps vegetables and fruits in a state of perfect preservation but also promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestine.”
The lactobacilli described by Sally Fallon, are lactic-acid bacteria (LAB) – extremely important beneficial bacteria, essential to life. One “lactobacilli” that has become a household name over the past decade "lactobacillus acidophilus" has been heavily-marketed by factory-produced yogurts.
But there is so much more to LAB than just this one (acidophilus) which factory-processes have taken out-of-context, separated from the other microbes without which it would not exist.
When we start refining parts of our food down to certain vitamins, nutrients or microbes, we are missing the whole picture.
The whole picture is whole foods. All the nutrients, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, microbes all working together is what we want to eat, so that our body can function better as a whole, too.
How it all started
A long long time ago, Louis Pasteur discovered fermentation and created the field of microbiology. Two centuries later, microbiology is still a brand-new frontier in science but new discoveries of their life-restoring and healing properties which have been legendary or mystical are just now being confirmed with lab coats & microscopes, and even then, just a tiny fraction has been discovered, and barely explained.
See this article from the NY Times for an in-depth look at how we got to where we are in probiotics discoveries, and where we may be headed for the treatment of mental health.
Fermented foods that are done using lacto-fermentation and contain lactobacillus organisms can be purchased 'raw' or created in your own kitchen.
When we consume these products we get beautiful bacteria + probiotics for our intestinal tract, but we also take in circulation aid, detoxification help and colon-cleansing aid!
One more reason to eat, drink & ferment your own raw, unpasteurized fermented foods a part of your daily ritual!
Probiotics .... grow your own!
Nature provides ... we just need to learn to harness what is given to us.... what a trip!
Lutz Nutritions' Okanagan "Fermentation Fundamentals" Tour 2016 line-up can be found here!