Probiotics are healthy bacteria found in foods that help increase the diversity in bacteria species within the gut. Probiotic bacteria can be found in fermented foods.
Foods containing probiotics are becoming more common on the shelves of our supermarkets. From kombucha, kefir and kimchi, to miso and sauerkraut, there has never been a better time to get adventurous and add some of these foods to your diet.
Your gut is full of bacteria that keep you healthy in many ways, including helping to regulate your immune system, producing vitamins, and defending against disease-causing bacteria.
Dairy products: These products are the most beginner-friendly fermented foods. All yogurts contain live cultures, but stomach acid will destroy much of these bacteria before it can reach your gut. Probiotic yogurts feature more resilient strains, which can get through the stomach and exert their effects. Kefir is similar to yogurt but has a slightly thinner consistency. Yogurt generally contains lactobacillus bacteria, whereas kefir contains more diverse bacteria. Kefir is also 99% lactose free, so it’s a great way of getting the benefits of dairy if you are lactose intolerant.
Skyr is an Icelandic dairy product generally marketed as a yogurt, however it is more similar to cheese. It is made with fermented milk, which has been strained multiple times to drain the whey, making it an almost fat-free, high protein product with a tart, sour taste. Skyr has similar probiotics to yogurt, and its high protein content makes it a great snack for everyone, especially cancer patients.
Kimchi and Sauerkraut: These fermented delicacies are a great way to enjoy cabbage, one of our favorite cruciferous vegetables. Sauerkraut is a famous German fermented cabbage dish. Kimchi is popular in Korea, and generally consists of fermented cabbage along with other vegetables such as daikon radish or carrots and is seasoned with spices and garlic. Our kimchi broth is an easy introduction to this fermented specialty.
Kombucha is made by adding a starter culture of bacteria and yeast to tea, along with sugar and other flavorings. It is widely available in supermarkets; however, its strong vinegar taste means many commercial offerings are loaded with added sugar to make them more palatable. Kombucha can also be expensive and there are limited human trials proving that it has any health benefits .
Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans and is often used as a meat substitute in vegetarian cooking. It is high in both protein and fiber, and has a chewy nutty flavor. Try marinating it and including it in a quesadilla for a Mexican twist.
Miso is a paste usually made from fermented soybeans which is traditionally used in Japanese cooking. We love using it in a sauce to drizzle over fish or vegetables, or in traditional miso soup. To receive the probiotic benefits from miso, it needs to be consumed at room temperature or cold as when heated to boiling the probiotics are destroyed.
When buying fermented foods, choose only those that are refrigerated. Fermented foods on the shelf have been pasteurized to increase their shelf life, which kills their beneficial bacteria. Look to ensure that the label mentions “live” or “active” cultures to get a product with the bacteria you desire.