Probiotics have become really popular in health circles and the media for the past several years. I’m sure you know by now that probiotics are important for your health. According to The Joint FAO/World Health Organization, probiotics are “live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.” They are the “friendly” bacteria that can help correct imbalances in our digestive system. In fact, our digestive system is home to TRILLIONS of microbes that live with us in a symbiotic relationship.
I’m sharing 5 ways that you can get probiotics into your diet from everyday food & drink. If you’re healthy incorporating these into your diet regularly is all you need to keep your guy healthy. However, if you have any health conditions then this alone may not cut it. If that’s the case, see your naturopath or other health professional for specific recommendations.
You can make all of these, except the last one, at home. I recommend you give it a try at least once, not just to save money but so that you know exactly what goes into making it and whether or not you’re willing to buy it off the shelf. I myself have made a few of these at home except kimchi, which is next on my bucket list!
In no particular order, here are 5 ways to get your probiotics from every day food and drink:
I discovered this over a year ago now and I have been making my own at home for almost as long. This is really simple to make, it only takes a few minutes of care every few days and you’ll get a fizzy probiotic drink that you can flavor to your liking! The end result is also called “water kefir soda” because it can get that fizzy if you make it just right.
Water kefir is made with water kefir “grains” or “crystals”. It’s those white clusters in the picture above. You can even see a couple floating in the water due to the carbonation. These little guys are a symbiotic mix of yeast and good bacteria. They use sugar water and ferment the drink leaving good-for-you probiotics behind. If you’re lucky enough to live in a location where you can buy this on the shelves, give it a try and see how you like it. If you’re not that lucky you can purchase live grains online from reputable companies.
Tip: It’s important to make sure that you get “live” grains. Dehydrated grains take longer to produce and they likely won’t produce as well as living grains.
Kombucha is another fermented drink that has gotten really popular over the past few years. I first discovered this as a student in naturopathic medical school. The first time I tasted it…let’s just say I didn’t like it, not one bit. I didn’t understand how anyone could drink the stuff! After a few years, I found some brands and flavors that I really liked and I grew to love the stuff.
Like water kefir, it’s fermented by a yeast/bacteria symbiotic mix called a Scoby. In the picture above you should be able to make it out at the top of the liquid (what wavy line). What makes it different is that kombucha is fermented from sweet tea while water kefir is made with sugar water. Another difference is that it’s filled with healthy enzymes and it doesn’t have as many probiotics as water kefir. So, if you’re looking for probiotics only, stick with water kefir, if you also want the health benefits of the enzymes in kombucha, then why not drink them both? It’s pretty simple to make. It just takes regular checking because it can go from a tasty drink to a sour vinegar pretty quickly.
Tip: It’s important to get a good quality, live kombucha scoby. Apparently, a kombucha scoby looks just like an apple cider vinegar scoby and some buyers have gotten the wrong product online. Reputable places will give you a nice big scoby w/ starter tea so you can get brewing right away.
This is a Korean staple and they eat it at every meal. It’s incorporated into different Korean dishes and it’s even eaten on it’s own with rice. Kimchi is fermented cabbage with a spicy seasoning. You can eat it fresh but as it ferments, that’s when you get the healthy probiotics. That’s also when the kimchi gets more sour. The older the kimchi is, the more sour it gets. In the past Koreans would make one batch that was large enough to last the entire year. Imagine how sour it became at the end of the supply?
Tip: There’s as many recipes for kimchi as there are chefs so it’s best to try different brands and recipes until you find the one that you like. I haven’t made this myself just yet but I do want to try it in the near future. When I do, I’ll let you know how it goes.
Lots of people love their sauerkraut, am I right? It’s a German staple that made it’s way across the Atlantic. Being Asian myself, I didn’t grow up eating sauerkraut and I never really developed a taste for it. However, it is filled with good probiotics so I think of it more as a supplement. It’s very simple to make; all you need is cabbage, salt and an airtight container.
Tip: Sauerkraut is available on the grocery shelf but that means it was pasteurized to kill bacteria. Sauerkraut in the refrigerated section likely still has all the good probiotics inside (but check the labels just to be sure). If you’re just eating it for the flavor then keep on keepin’ on. But, what’s the point of eating it if you’re not going to get the good health benefits of the probiotics? A good reputable brand that I like is Bubbie’s which can be found in the refrigerated section of natural food grocery stores. They make it the old fashioned way with just cabbage and salt. Oh and they use artisan well water…doesn’t that sound delightful? There’s also many new fermented foods companies popping up so if you see other brands of ‘kraut in the refrigerated section, give them a try. It’s really simple to make your own batch from scratch. I actually have my first batch fermenting right now and I’ll let you know how it goes!
This is the first probiotic drink that was made available to the masses. The exclusive strain they use Lactobacillus casei Shirota was discovered by Dr. Minoru Shirota a Japanese scientist. He started making and selling Yakult in 1935 and it’s still going strong. I loved to drink this as a child but I had no idea about the goodness of the probiotics inside. Back then you could only get this from Asian markets. Now, it’s available at a local grocery store near you! I was so pleasantly surprised when I found this in the dairy section of my local grocery store. I have no idea when that happened but it’s great! It just goes to show how popular probiotics have gotten in America. (Also, did you notice how far behind we are compared to Asia? 1935…seriously??) If you haven’t tried it before, you just might fall in love with it!
Tip: If you’re lactose intolerant then you might want to stay away from this one. If you can eat things like yogurt and ice cream you might be fine but be careful and pay attention to any symptoms that might crop up, just in case.
That wraps up my favorite sources for natural probiotics from regular foods and drinks. That’s the key to taking advantage of the health benefits, regular consumption. Heath benefits of probiotics can be strain specific. By eating a variety of different fermented foods, like I’ve listed here, you’re going to be consuming a variety of different probiotics as well, which will only be good for you in the long run.
Have you tried all of these? Which one is your favorite?