What is fermented protein?

When people use the word ‘fermented’ I tend to think of miso, kimchi and sauerkraut. I definitely don’t think of protein powder, and I’m sure there are a number of other people who also feel a little lost when it comes to all the different kinds of protein, how they’re treated, and what that means in terms of health and digestion. 

For starters there are a huge number of different sources of protein, from whey and casein to hemp and pea. Within this, there are varying ways that protein is made and treated which adds a further level of complexity for understanding what you’re putting into your body. These processes range from heating, to treating with chemicals, to fermentation, amongst others.

So, what is fermentation?

Fermentation involves breaking down carbohydrates and sugars in food by exposing it to various bacteria, along with yeast, to create a by-product. In this case the by-product is protein, although I’m sure lots of people are more aware of fermentation as the process used to create alcohol from sugars. 

The process of fermentation introduces probiotics into the product being treated. Probiotics are living microorganisms which help to improve the levels of healthy bacteria in your intestines and keep your gut healthy and functional. They have been shown to aid in digestion, reduce the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, and decrease the likelihood of developing ulcers and chronic conditions such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. 

In terms of protein powder, bacteria is introduced to make the protein powder itself from whole foods, such as split peas or rice. The introduction of this bacteria breaks down the carbohydrate molecules present, making them smaller and easier to digest. The same happens with the protein within the whole foods, making them easier and faster to digest too. The majority of the carbohydrate is then removed, increasing the concentration of proteins with the product.

Why is fermented protein good for you? 

There are a number of health benefits to eating fermented foods, but the current research on fermented protein powders is still in its infancy. It’s believed that fermented protein can help to reduce bloating and flatulence when compared to its non-fermented competition, which can result from drinking protein shakes too fast, or as a result of overall poor digestive health. 

Fermented protein is also thought to have an enhanced bioavailability over other types of protein, especially those derived from animal products. This means that a higher percentage of the protein content and amino acids are absorbed by the body and made available to use. Protein powders which aren’t treated in the same way might be harder for your body to absorb, so you might not be getting the same amount of protein per serving that you’re expecting from the label! 

The fermentation process itself is also understood to remove harmful bacteria from the ingredients used, and to help promote a healthy digestive environment for beneficial bacteria and other gut flora to thrive. Having a healthy digestive system is one of the most important things that we can do for ourselves, so making the move to a fermented protein powder might well improve your digestion overall! A whole foods plant-based diet, good hydration and plenty of exercise should also be a part of this regimen - don’t rely entirely on fermented protein to give your intestines the support they need!

Having already been partially broken down by the bacteria and yeast used in the treatment process, fermented protein is also thought to be easier to digest. That’s why Vivo Life’s PERFORM protein powder contains gently fermented pea protein for easier digestion and better absorption, making sure you get the most protein possible from your shakes. Alternatively, the yellow pea protein in our VEGAN PROTEIN powder is also fermented, and is a great option for those who want a simpler protein powder.

Not only is the protein in all Vivo Life’s products gently fermented to help with gut health, it is also entirely plant-based and soy free, so those with intolerances or allergies to certain proteins can still enjoy their protein shakes without having to worry about triggering any reactions. As always, if you are worried that a product might contain ingredients that will cause a reaction, speak to a medical professional before incorporating it into your routine. 

So there you have it! 

Fermented protein may help to balance and regulate most gut functions, including the production of stomach acid and the ability to absorb more protein per serving. Also, if you suffer from protein bloat or have any intolerances, a plant-based fermented protein might be just what you need. Plus, with so many flavours of PERFORM to try, you’ll have plenty of options for the perfect protein shake!