Fermented Foods For Boosting Immunity

Nutrients and live bacteria in fermented foods can build a strong gut. And that is the secret to better immunity

Neelanjana Singh Published Apr 12, 2020 00:00:00 IST
Fermented Foods For Boosting Immunity

You might think fermented foods are back in vogue but, eating fermented foods is no recent phenomenon. This practice has been around for thousands of years. Fermented foods have long been valued not only for their unique flavour and texture, but also for the nutrients that they provide in an easily digestible form. 

As a process, fermentation enhances the bio-availability of nutrients in the food. For example, the vitamin B12, vitamin C and iron content of a food is enhanced and better absorbed by the body, once the food has been fermented. Scientists working in the area of gut health have opined that those who eat fermented foods regularly tend to have diverse species of bacteria in their gut. This gut bacteria diversity is associated with better physical and mental health. It is also interesting to note that a decline in the consumption of fermented foods is linked to the decline in our innate immunity. Innate immunity is the fast-acting immune response, which relies on the work of a variety of cells like the natural-killer cells, neutrophils, macrophages, etc. The bacterial metabolites in fermented foods are detected by the special receptors in our body, which triggers the activity and movement of immune cells.

Very often, we consume some or the other kind of fermented food without even being aware that it has undergone the fermentation process. Here is a recipe for a dish that is commonly enjoyed as a snack, but it is, in fact, a beneficial fermented food that can easily be prepared at home. 

Recipe: Carrot Dhokla

Serves 4


¼ cup thick yogurt

1 cup yellow chana dal 

1 tsp ginger paste

½ tsp green chilli paste

½ tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp sugar

1 small carrot grated

1 tsp cooking soda

1 tbsp cooking oil

Tempering mixture

⅛ tsp asafoetida (hing)

2 tbsp curry leaves, chopped

1 tbsp cooking oil


1. Wash the dal and soak it in an ample amount of water. Leave aside for 3 hours. Drain the water and grind the dal into a paste using a small quantity of water if required. The consistency of the batter should be like that of a cheela or pancake.

2. Add the sugar to the yogurt and mix together. Then add this mixture to the ground dal paste. Cover this dal-yogurt mixture and leave it undisturbed in a warm place for about 8-10 hours or overnight to allow it to ferment.

3. To this fermented batter, add the ginger paste, green chilli paste, grated carrot, 1 tbsp oil and salt.

4. Sprinkle the baking soda onto the fermented batter and mix well until the batter is light and fluffy in texture.

5. Lightly grease with cooking oil the utensil to be used for steaming the batter. Pour the fluffy batter into the greased dish and steam for 15 minutes either in a pressure cooker or rice cooker.

6. Remove the prepared food from the pan and cut into desired shape (usually cubes).

7. In a skillet, heat 1 tbsp oil and add the hing and mustard seeds. Allow it to splutter. Add the chopped curry leaves and turn off the heat once it is slightly cooked. Pour this tempering mixture over the cubed dhokla pieces. A little warm water may be sprinkled over the dhokla to soften it.

8. Serve immediately or allow it to cool and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. 

Note: Yogurt is a fermented food, teeming with live bacteria. This makes it an excellent starter for the fermentation process.


Neelanjana Singh is a nutrition therapist with 30 years experience and the author of Our Kid Eats Everything.
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