By K Lakshmi Bala
Fermented foods and beverages now form a large and important sector of the food industry. Indigenous fermented foods were acknowledged to be more appetizing and digestible. However, these foods are not confined to a particular purpose. Moreover many of these foods are ceasing to be indigenous as they are gradually introduced into countries of western world. Manipur is a treasure house of agriculture, horticultural crops and microbial resources. A traditional fermented food of Manipur Valley namely Hawaijar is made from soybean fermented with Bacillus subtilis. It forms a vital source of nutrition as a rich source of protein. Indigenous fermented foods forms a major role in the daily food intake of north eastern regions. Fermented soybean is most popular in north eastern regions of India particularly Manipur, Sikkim, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram. Many countries produce similar soybean foods such as Natto of Japan, Miso of China, Cheong gukjang of Korea, Thaunau of Thailand, Kinema of Nepal and Dawadawa, Sumbala of West Africa.
Medicinal Benefits of Fermented Soybeans
Fermented soybean is good for one`s health and these claims are supported by medical researches. Fermented soybean contains a serine protease type enzyme which may also reduce blood clotting. This may help to avoid thrombosis. Extract from fermented soybean is available as dietary supplement. Nattokinase is an enzyme extracted and purified from a Japanese Natto. Nattokinase may be potentially useful as a blood thinner, and is considered by some in the alternative medicine community as a possible adjunctive therapy in cardiovascular disease replacing Aspirin.It has the ability to degrade amyloidal fibrils which might be a preventive or treatment amyloidal type disease such as Alzheimer. Fermented soybean contains large amount of vitamin-K, which is involved in the formation of calcium binding group in proteins, assisting the formation of bone and preventing osteoporosis. Fermented soybean contains many chemicals alleged to prevent cancer. Recent studies also show it also have cholesterol lowering effect. It also have antibiotic effect and its use as medicine against dysentery was researched by the Imperial Japanese Navy before world war II. It is also claimed to prevent obesity, improve digestion, reduce effects of ageing and hair loss. It is used as an ingredient of pet`s food and it is claimed that it improves pet`s health.
Fermented Soybean As a Means of Livelihood
Selling of fermented soybean is a means of livelihood in many regions of northeast India. Fermented soybean are prepared at household level and its selling is limited at homes and small shops. It is not commercially produced due to poor marketability and improper safety measures. There is a need to undertake sustainable development of value added fermented soybean products. Utilization of human, agricultural and microbial resources of northeast India with improvement in processes and practices will lead to commercial viability & marketing through supply chain management and value addition of fermented soybean products. Through this we can create employment opportunities and rural development of northeastern states of India and other states directly or indirectly thus improving the living standard for rural poor.
(Author is Assistant Professor, Department of Food Process Engineering, SHIATS, Alllahabad)