The many perks of fermentation

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CHENNAI: Fermented foods have been an important component of the human diet from time immemorial. It contains a high number of probiotics that have been associated with a wide range of health benefits, including improved digestion and immunity. Fermented food is generally defined as an edible product produced from raw or cooked substances that are of plant or animal origin, produced by microorganisms either spontaneously or by adding in some cultures.

Traditional fermented food preparation is one of the oldest biotechnological processes around the world in which microorganisms play a crucial role in the improvement of sensory characteristics, bio enrichment, health-promoting attributes, and preservation of foods. Fermentation helps reduce nondigestible carbohydrates, enriches the pool of essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals, and increases the overall quality, digestibility, taste, and aroma of the food.

Rice is known as the grain of life and is synonymous with food for every Indian. The Indians derive 80% of their energy needs from rice, which contains 80% carbohydrates, 7–8% protein, 3% fat, and 3% fibre. The mineral content, starch quality, glycaemic index, and antioxidant activity have made rice unique among cereals. Positive qualities of high digestibility of starch, high biological value of amino acids, high content of fatty acids and selenium, and antihypertensive effects.

Due to it being the most available and common food resource in the Indian subcontinent, the preparation of different types of fermented foods and beverages from rice has been a regular practice for a long time. Fermentation enriches the rice, supplements it with different essential amino acids, vitamins, minerals, prebiotics, and probiotic organisms, and degrades antinutrients (phytic acid, tannins, and polyphenols). Thus, its nutrition, energy contents, and therapeutic potential are increased.

Rice or any starch-containing cereal-based media favours the growth of ubiquitous groups of microbes like lactic acid bacteria (LAB), lactobacillus, bifidobacteria, yeast and moulds. LAB fermentation in cereal-containing foods provides a natural way to concentrate and enhance nutrients, destroy undesirable components, enrich with therapeutic components and modify the sensory qualities of the food. Additionally, these make food preparation easy (reduced cooking times and lower energy consumption), facilitate preservation from the detrimental effects of spoilage and pathogenic organisms, and enhance product safety.

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