Fermentation can be defined as an enzyme-catalyzed anaerobic pathway that breaks down energy-rich carbohydrates to produce energy. The chemical breakdown of substances by microorganisms is an ancient technique used for making products last much longer than in their raw state. Besides, fermentation is a vital process occurring in living beings. But what makes fermentation so unique and important? Here are ten reasons:
#1. Fermentation is essential for bread making and baking
You probably love eating fluffy bread but did you know that the fermentation process is what makes the bread so soft and airy? In baking, yeast is commonly used as a leavening agent for the fermentation process. Yeast converts carbs into carbon dioxide, the production of which facilitates the formation of tiny pockets of air within the dough. These air pockets cause the dough to rise and trapped carbon dioxide further expands the bread during the baking process.
#2. Fermentation enables the production of fermented foods and beverages
Fermentation is also used commercially in making various foods and beverages. In this case, the products undergo controlled microbial growth and fermentation, giving fermented foods and drinks a unique aroma, taste, and texture. When making alcoholic drinks, yeast and other bacteria convert sugars to alcohol, carbon dioxide, and heat. This process is known as alcoholic fermentation. Other non-alcoholic foods and beverages produced by lactic acid or acetic acid fermentation include yogurt, kefir, kimchi, kombucha, tempeh, and pickled vegetables.
#3. Fermentation is involved in biofuel production
Although it may sound ridiculous, bacteria are often used to produce biofuels. While there are many ways of making biofuels, the production process generally involves alcoholic fermentation and heat to break down carbohydrate molecules in plants. Ethanol is a biomass-based renewable fuel that can be made by fermenting the sugar in the starches of different grains, including but not limited to wheat, barley, corn, and sugar cane.
#4. The synthesis of certain biopolymers is carried out through fermentation
Fermentation plays an essential role in the production of biopolymers as they require specific nutrients and suitable environmental conditions. While some of these nutrients are synthesized by the chemical polymerization of monomers, others are produced directly by fermentation. And even if we choose the chemical polymerization pathway, the monomers are still produced through fermentation.
#5. Fermentation is commonly used in the production of pharmaceutical products
Microbial fermentation is widely used in synthesizing a variety of medicines, such as antibiotics, vaccines, and even drugs targeting hormonal disorders. The production of antibiotics or secondary metabolites in fungi serve as anti-infectious agents and fermentation is the only route to make these chemical active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) as they rely solely on micro-organisms. The main reason fermentation is more efficient than multi-step synthesis is that the latter route is time-consuming, requires significant development, and entails higher costs.
#6. Fermented foods and drinks improve your digestion
Probiotics are helpful live bacteria and yeasts that keep your digestive system healthy. As some fermented foods and drinks are excellent sources of probiotics, they significantly improve your digestion. Research shows that a diet rich in fermented foods increases the overall microbial diversity in your gut, boosting your digestion and decreasing the signs of inflammation.
#7. Consuming fermented foods and drinks boost your immune system
The consumption of fermented foods and drinks has plenty of health benefits, and strengthening immunity is one of them. As fermentation promotes the growth of probiotics, taking fermented foods significantly reduces the risks of infections and boosts your immune system. This may also help you recover faster whenever you’re sick. So, if you want to easily enhance your immune system, consider consuming super healthy probiotic-rich foods, such as yogurt, kefir, tempeh, kimchi, kombucha, or pickled vegetables.
#8. Fermentation increases vitamin and mineral content in food
One of the best ways to ensure that your body receives enough vitamins is to consume fermented supplements. This systematic review highlights the importance of health-promoting components found in various fermented foods. Besides, fermentation is involved in vitamin C production, one of the essential nutrients for humans. Fermented foods are also rich in vitamin B, vitamin K, iron, and zinc. More importantly, the consumption of fermented foods makes it much easier for your body to absorb these vitamins and minerals.
#9. Fermentation is widely used in organic waste treatment
Although bacteria and other microbes are often associated with diseases, they play a crucial role in commercial applications of fermentation in treating wastes. Fermentation is a process that removes biological nutrients from wastewater and other wastes. Fermentation produces denitrifying and polyphosphate-accumulating bacteria responsible for the decomposition of various organic materials. Whether it comes to waste recycling or biodegradation of oil, fermentation is one of the most efficient solutions. During the fermentation process, organic solid waste is converted into carbon dioxide, water, and mineral salts.
#10. Living beings undergo fermentation to break down nutrients in food and generate energy
Glycolysis involves 10 reactions that break down glucose to pyruvate and synthesize ATP. In aerobic conditions, the final product of glycolysis is pyruvate. Pyruvate is then reduced to lactate by homolactic fermentation. During this process, NAD+ is regenerated. Besides, fermentation is an essential process that generates energy in muscle cells. When your body uses the stored ATP and your muscles require more energy, ATP will be generated through lactic acid fermentation. Fermentation is especially helpful when you do lots of physical exercises and your muscles do not receive enough oxygen from the blood. At this point, your muscles start to respire anaerobically and this is exactly when fermentation comes into play.