The Health Benefits of Fermented Foods

wild fermentation

Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods

by Sandor Katz

Chelsea Green (2003)

Book Review

Free PDF

Wild Fermentation is an encyclopedia of do-it-yourself fermentation. Sandor Katz first learned of the health benefits of fermentation in his search for alternative AIDS treatments. Published in 2003, this book foreshadowed recent breakthrough research into the importance of the microbiome* in digestion, mental stability, neuroendocrine function and immunity.

According to Katz, it was Russian immunologist and 1908 Nobel laureate Ilya Mechnikov who first observed – while studying yogurt eating centenarians** – that lactobacilli (the bacteria produced by fermentation) “postpone and ameliorate” old age.

The first half of the book is a historical overview of the art of fermentation. Mead (an alcoholic honey drink) is the earliest example of deliberate fermentation, dating back more than 12,000 years. Following the agricultural revolution, human beings also used fermentation to make other alcoholic drinks, as well as preserving milk and grains. It later came to be used in bread making and chocolate, coffee and tea production.

Prior to the advent of refrigeration (in the early 1900s), all households produced and consumed fermented foods as part of their diet. Katz (and many health practitioners) believe the sudden increase in chronic health conditions (cancer, obesity, diabetes, allergies, asthma, autoimmune disease, autism, etc) relates to a loss of fermented foods in the Western diet. This, in combination, with overuse of antibiotics (and heavy exposure to herbicides like Roundup) causes major a major loss of healthy intestinal bacteria for many of us.

The second half of the book is devoted to recipes for home fermented foods. According to Katz, any food can be fermented and the distinction between “fermented” and “rotten” is purely subjective and cultural. He gives the example the Swedish delicacy lutefisk and Chinese 100-year-old eggs, which are fermented in horse urine for two months.

The video below is from one of Katz’s fermentation workshops:

8 thoughts on “The Health Benefits of Fermented Foods

  1. Pingback: The Health Benefits of Fermented Foods | Talesfromthelou

  2. I’m sold on fermentation because I spend a fortune on salad fixings attempting to get the health benefits of fresh produce, however, I’m not finding much in the way of really fresh produce at the supermarket. So, this is something for me to seriously consider.

    Thank you once again, Dr. Bramhall, for continuing to educate us on how to live as healthy as possible. So glad to have you in our corner!


    • Sounds like a great idea. It’s probably best to prepare them yourself. A lot of the products sold in stores don’t have live bacterial cultures in them. In summer I ferment nearly all the vegetable from my garden and in winter I ferment not-so-fresh vegetables I find at the supermarket. Vegetables don’t need to be fresh to ferment because they all have lactobacilli on them naturally.


  3. My father in-law in Thailand from Chinese recipe for Hepatise makes fermented Thai fruit Meds that stabilize my neurological problems (CIDP} luckily works for me .


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