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health 3Gone are the days when the women of the house spent hours preparing spices, sauces and dairy products at home. As increasing numbers join the workforce, convenience takes top priority when it comes to anything on their to-do lists.

You may wonder what is the drawback in stocking your kitchen with processed foods (for example, pre-packaged yoghurt instead of one that has been fermented overnight at home or bought from the doodhwala) when it saves so much time. The answer is the elimination of naturally ‘fermented’ foods from our diets, due to which we lose out on the ‘healthy bacteria’ present in them.

Consuming fermented foods is like eating partially digested food, even before it reaches our taste buds. We may still be eating pickles, bread, cheese or pasta, but modern methods of food manufacturing (such as pasteurisation) destroy the good bacteria we need to stay healthy, in order to increase the shelf life of these products.

Sarah Wilson, the woman behind the ‘I Quit Sugar’ website says, “Fermenting foods naturally breaks down sugar into cellular energy, releasing lactic acid, which increases the amount of micronutrients – including probiotics, enzymes, vitamins and minerals –that our bodies absorb from what we eat.”

In addition to restoring gut health, fermented foods also boost the immune system and are believed to increase the body’s ability to fight cancer owing to their high levels of vitamins C and K.

Fermented foods you can incorporate in your diet include sourdough bread instead of ‘regular’ bread; fermented beverages like lassi or kombucha tea and naturally fermented pickles, kim chi, sauerkraut and salsa.

NB: Fermentation can increase salt content if salt brine is used as the fermenting agent; therefore, if you suffer from high blood pressure or cardiovascular problems, consult your physician prior to making dietary changes.

– Dr Summaiya Syed-Tariq
The writer is a senior forensic practitioner at the Police Surgeon Office, Karachi and has a general practice.

First published in the Health Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on March 8, 2015.