Media, news outlets and Instagram posts are constantly telling how fermented foods are good for us. Why? Well, these suggestions are based around 2 terms- "fermentation" and "probiotics", that describe foods which may be beneficial for our digestive health.
But are the 2 things the same and do they have an equal impact? Let's see.
Probiotics are “Live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host” – Definition of probiotics, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations and World Health Organization (WHO), updated in 2014. Thus, it is important to note that not all fermented foods have live organisms. In certain products, the previously active organisms get inactivated by the heating and packaging process (e.g. canning of sauerkraut). These foods are still nutritious, but they do not, however, have the sought after probiotic activity. However, products like cheese, yogurt, and non-heated sauerkraut still do contain live organisms and do demonstrate probiotic activity which is beneficial for our GI tracts.
Bottom line: fermentation can lead to the presence of probiotics in foods, but not all fermented foods contain probiotics. Thus, not all fermented foods will have the beneficial effects that probiotics are known for!