Our human cells are outnumbered by a plethora of bacteria living in and on us by about 10 to 1. Our digestive system houses many of these microorganisms, some of which are good, and others that are not. To keep our body in peak condition, we need to feed the good bacteria and prevent the bad bacteria taking a stranglehold on our system. And don’t think that the good bacteria are only there to help with digestion. They are there for far-reaching health benefits which you can read about on the homepage of this site. With this in mind, we should all be eating probiotics, but that doesn’t mean yoghurt drinks. Many of the foods we can eat contain probiotics, and this article looks at some of better sources to feed our good bacteria.
1. Sauerkraut (& Kimchi)
Made from fermented cabbage (and sometimes other vegetables), sauerkraut is rich in organic acids which feed the good bacteria, as well as several important vitamins. Kinchi is the Korean alternative fermented cabbage and is deliciously spicy and sour.
Fermented veggies are also great sources of beneficial bacteria and enzymes that can help with digestion.
If looking to buy fermented vegetables, they aren’t much good if they are pasteurized and come out of tins. Look for fresh, or make your own. You can do a quick search online for traditional sauerkraut recipes, but one I like is this Homemade Sauerkraut recipe on the Wellness Mama website.
The name kefir comes from the Turkish word meaning “good feeling”.
Kefir is fermented milk, so anyone with a dairy intolerance might like to stay clear. It’s made from milk (cow, goat or sheep) and fermented kefir grains and has the same texture as a drinking yoghurt and is slightly acidic with a tart flavour. Kefir is rich in B12, magnesium, K2, biotin, folate, antioxidants and enzymes. It also contains high concentrations of lactobacilli and bifidus bacteria.
The Chinese know kombucha as the “immortal health elixir” and for good reason, but what is it?
Kombucha is fermented black tea and cane sugar which produces a tangy and naturally fizzy drink. It contains lots of b vitamins, enzymes and organic acids that may improve digestion, increase energy, detoxify, help with weight loss, prevent cancer, reduce swelling and a stack of other health benefits.
You can create your own Kombucha easily at home. You will need to buy the microorganisms to seed your fermentation. That is known as a SCOBY, which stands for Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast).
For a good Kombucha recipe, see “7 reasons to drink Kombucha everyday” on Dr. Axe’s website. You’ll also get a lot more background information on this amazing drink.
Natto is popular in Japan, especially for breakfast. It is made by fermenting soybeans and contains bacillus subtilis which is a great bacteria for your gut. Natto also contains an enzyme called nattokinase, which itself has huge health benefits. You can read more about Nattokinase on the Enzyme Therapies website.
I better warn you though, natto is an acquired taste, with strong taste, slimy texture and pungent smell.
Miso is made with fermented beans, typically soybeans, though can be made from fermented rye, rice or barley. To make a quick soup, add a tablespoon of miso paste to some hot water. Miso contains bacteria like lactobacillus and bifidus.
This is probably the food most people think of when they hear the word probiotic. Look for live-cultured unsweetened yoghurt.
Yoghurt is easy to make at home, but look for milk from grass-fed organic animals.
I remember making yoghurt as a kid. We’d boil some full fat cows milk and put it into a wide-mouth thermos flask so it could maintain a warm temperature for several hours. When it had cooled down to around body temperature, we’d add a spoonful of live-cultured yoghurt and then loosely cover. Within a few hours (like overnight), we’d have rich, creamy yoghurt that not only we could eat immediately, but we could also use it to seed the next batch. Milk with higher fat content makes the creamiest, thickest yoghurt, but you can used skimmed milk if you prefer.