If you are one of the millions that deal with stress, drink alcohol, and have a poor diet, then probiotic supplementation is necessary. Probiotics can come from food, or in a pill, powder, or chewable tablet. Fermented foods, or nature’s probiotic, are more easily used by the body than supplements.
fermented foods: nature’s probiotic
When shopping for cultured foods, options such as some pickles, kimchi, tempeh, tofu, cheese, kombucha, sauerkraut, and brine cured-olives. Look in the cold, refrigerated sections for pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, and cultured foods in general.
The flavor of the cultured vegetables are on the sour side. Experiment with adding cultured foods to rice, on savory dishes, and by themselves to see how well you prefer each dish. I would start with something that you already prefer like pickles or a salsa and make a swap for a cultured salsa. There are literally thousands of cultured foods to try to keep an open mind and mouth.
fermented foods: milk based
Aside from cultured vegetables there are milked-based probiotic food products. These include cottage cheese, yogurt, buttermilk, sour cream, kefir, raw whey, and lassi. Because of the milk, they have a milder flavor than the vegetables due to the milk sugar. They usually thicken and the bacteria omits flavors that are tangy.
In order to reduce the risk of food poisoning, most store bought milk products are pasteurized which kill the good and bad bacteria. The good news is fermenting milk products takes only a few days of waiting with little steps involved to make it. The next time sour cream is needed as an ingredient or condiment, consider mixing your own a few days ahead of time.
fermented foods: fun beverages
Other fun beverages that are rich in probiotics are certain Belgian beers, red wine, kombucha and kefir sodas. Most beers do not contain any live cultures because the acid from hops destroys the probiotics. There are some double fermented Belgian beers that do contain live cultures similar to those found in yogurt.
Similarly, red wine also has some live cultures like those found in yogurt. Too much alcohol grows the bad bacteria in the gut. The balance is drinking one glass for a woman and two glasses for men daily at most.
Another alternative to drinking alcohol all together is kombucha or kefir soda. Kombucha is made with a fermented bacteria and yeast and kefir is made with fermented grains from a cactus or prickly pear.
fermented foods: chocolate
Also, a recent trend is to add supplemental probiotics to chocolate which actually aids in the amount of probiotics that reaches the small intestine. Chocolate is already a fermented food that offers lots of benefits such as antioxidants and fiber for the good bacteria in the gut to eat. Even though chocolate is fermented, there are no live cultures found in chocolate unless supplemented.
fermented food: miso
Another way to consume fermented foods is through miso. Miso is fermented soybeans with koji, an ingredient made from either fermented rice, barley (or other grains) or soybeans. It is a Japanese based paste. The way to consume miso is to add it to broth for umami flavoring. Since miso contains live cultures, wait until the broth is cooled before adding the paste. Adding the miso to boiling liquid will kill the live cultures.
fermented food: sourdough
Lastly, sourdough breads are a great way to enjoy cultured foods. Cultured breads do not have active probiotics but they do contain fermented fibers that are easier for the body to break down and the good bacteria to feast and grow on.
Once you find cultured foods that you enjoy, eating around 2 tbsp of cultured foods a day along with the daily value for fiber (35g for men, 25g for woman) will promote growth of good bacteria in the gut.
In addition to probiotic foods, prebiotics or foods with resistant starches, carbohydrates that are not easily absorbed in the small intestine, ferment in the large intestine, and grow good bacteria, are a way to sustain the microbiome of the gut.
Fruits and veggies that are higher in resistant starches are:
- onions and leeks
- legumes and beans
- chicory root often found in coffee
- Jerusalem artichokes
With fruit, eat the peel if edible, as it is essential to consume to reap the benefits of feeding the good bacteria.
If you feel as if your gut may be off due to the use of certain medications, inflammatory diseases, chronic stress or any other reason, there is a test called the GI-MAP that assays the stool for bacteria. Once the test results are sent to the dietitian, then a plan of action is made to grow the good bacteria in the gut. Feel free to contact us to schedule your consultation today to discuss your individual needs.
What probiotic foods and prebiotics do you enjoy?