Recently in the food world, there has been a debate brewing; to pasteurize or not to pasteurize?
Initially, the process of pasteurization was invented to improve public health by killing harmful bacterias sometimes found in food. While this is still a good practice for many foods, many people point to the “good bacteria” like probiotics in foods like raw sauerkraut.
So what gives? Is bacteria good for us or bad for us, and how can we tell the difference between the two?
The answer isn’t as simple as a yes or no, but here, we’ll dig to the bottom of this question and clear up some confusion along the way!
What Is Pasteurization?
To get things started, let’s talk about what pasteurization is and why you see it so frequently.
Pasteurization, simply put, is the process of heating food to destroy the bacteria that might be living within it. This process was discovered by Louis Pasteur in 1864 when he perfected the specific combination of time and temperature that it takes to kill bacteria without changing the original flavor of the food!
Not all food has to be pasteurized, but many of your favorite foods might go through this process. Most commonly associated with milk and dairy products, we also often see pasteurized alcohols, honey, and juices.
Since Pasteur’s discovery, the process has been tweaked and improved into what we see today.
The Pasteurization Process
To briefly describe how food gets pasteurized, we’ll examine one of the most commonly pasteurized food products; milk.
Milk processing can take anywhere from half a second to 30 minutes, depending on the method used! There are three main methods of milk pasteurization used by the dairy industry in the United States, which all vary slightly by time and pasteurization temperature.
- High-Temperature Short Time (HTST): This method is the most common method used for milk and heats the milk with metal plates and hot water for up to 30 minutes before rapidly cooling it again. This heat treatment helps to destroy pathogens and usually has a shelf life of about two weeks.
- Higher Heat Shorter Time (HHST): Like the first method, HHST uses somewhat different equipment and only needs about 1 second to complete! This results in similar shelf life to HTST and creates an almost identical kind of milk.
- Ultra-High Temperature (UHT): The third method of pasteurization is used in completely sterile conditions to kill even more of the bacteria found in milk. It is then sealed to maintain the sterile environment and can be kept shelf-stable for up to 6 months!
At first examination, pasteurization seems to be an excellent method for keeping us healthy and safe; and for the most part, it is! However, when food gets pasteurized, you can lose a lot of nutritional value along the way in healthy bacteria.
Gut Health and Fermentation
The biggest argument in the “pasteurized vs. unpasteurized” debate comes down to one word: probiotics.
Probiotics are the healthy bacterias found in food (and your gut) that help support your immune system, digestion, and overall health. The majority of probiotics can be found in food products that have been fermented, like Cleveland Kitchen’s sauerkrauts, dressings, and kimchi!
Fermentation is a natural process that breaks down chemicals naturally found in food. Food is most commonly fermented by adding healthy bacteria or yeast, as these will start to produce healthy bacterias called probiotics. We also have the fermentation process to thank for the tangy, unique tastes of things like sauerkraut and alcohol!
Now, here is where pasteurization comes into the fray! When food is pasteurized, the heat it is exposed to destroys the harmful bacteria and the good bacteria. Neither type of bacteria, good or bad, is heat resistant. As a result, pasteurizing food with probiotics in them can significantly reduce the nutritional aspects of those foods!
So What Do I Eat?
Here’s the good news; for the most part, you can safely eat both! When it comes to probiotic and pasteurized food, the choice is still pretty much up to you. However, there are some things to keep in mind when you are deciding between the two.
- Pasteurized food will tend to last longer than unpasteurized or raw foods, so make sure you know which you are buying and how long it will last!
- The pasteurization of milk is still a hot topic, as some products, like “raw milk,” are still heavily debated. Some people will say raw milk is better for you, and others will say pasteurization is the only way to go. Make sure you feel comfortable in the type of milk you choose.
- When you buy probiotic food, try to purchase unpasteurized versions! While they may last a shorter time, they will contain much more healthy bacterias than their pasteurized counterparts. All of Cleveland Kitchen’s fermented products are unpasteurized to give you as many of the excellent, beneficial bacterias as we can!
Here at Cleveland Kitchen, we want to bring the flavor and power of fermented foods to you! All around the world, fermented foods have made their impact, but they’re just getting started in the US. We want to start the fermented revolution here in the states, and we’re doing it with all-natural, GMO-free products from our local farms.
We offer a full line of probiotic sauerkrauts, dressings, and kimchi designed for today’s healthy eaters! Our foods are packed with nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, all ready to give a boost to your daily lunches and dinners.
To learn more about Cleveland Kitchen and our nutrition mission, check out our About Us page, keep up with our blog and check out our YouTube page for tips and how-tos on our delicious and healthy recipes.
Medical Disclaimer: All information, content, and material of this website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to serve as a substitute for the consultation, diagnosis, and/or medical treatment of a qualified physician or healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.