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. Probiotics are healthy bacteria in foods that help to increase the diversity in bacteria species within the gut. Probiotic bacteria can be found in fermented foods.
Dairy products: These 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.
Studies have found mineral absorption from yogurt and kefir to be higher than from yogurt, due to the acidic environment caused by the bacteria. Kefir is also 99% lactose free, so is 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 by the fermented milk, which has been strained multiple times to drain the whey. This leaves 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 cancer patients.
Kimchi and Saurkraut: These are a great way to enjoy cabbage, one of our favorite cruciferous vegetables. Saurkaurt is pickled cabbage only, and is a famous German delicacy. Kimchi is popular in Korea, and generally consisting of picked cabbage along with other vegetables such as radishes or carrots. Seasonings such as spices and garlic are also included. Kimchi has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and help weight loss in a small human study. Try our kimchi broth for an easy introduction.
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 taste better- watch out! Kombucha can also be expensive and there are limited human trials proving that it has any effect.
Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans, and is used a lot as a meat substitute in vegetarian cooking. It is high in both protein and fiber, and has a chewy nutty flavor that we love. Try marinating it and including it in a quesadilla for a twist on the usual Mexican dish.
Miso is a paste usually made from fermented soybeans. It is traditionally used in Japanese cooking. We love using it in a sauce to drizzle over fish or vegetables, or in traditional miso soup.
When buying fermented foods, choose those that are refrigerated. Fermented foods on the shelf have been pasteurized to increase their shelf life, which kills the beneficial bacteria in it. Look to ensure the label mentions ‘live’ or ‘active’ cultures to get a product with the bacteria you desire.