One of the best things you can do to improve your general heath is to make sure you include probiotics in your diet. Ideally you want to include some every day or at least most days of the week.
But what exactly are probiotics? They are microorganisms that live in the food we consume. Yoghurt is a great example that most of us are familiar with. As long as the yoghurt hasn’t been pasteurised, it has live cultures (a.k.a bacteria and other microorganisms) in it that can then make it into your gut and help populate it with good organisms.
It’s a good idea to include some sort of probiotic daily. Think of it as a maintenance thing, similar to taking a multi-vitamin. Probiotics are a great tool to help you populate your gut flora with good bacteria. They are available in pill and drink form, or you can get them by eating probiotic rich food on a daily basis.
What you want to look for are fermented foods and drinks. We already consume quite a few of them. Yoghurt is a great example. As is cheese, sauerkraut, sourdough bread, and even pickles. By making sure we include them several times per week or even daily, we can help out our gut and with it improve our microbiome.
It is important that the fermented foods you eat have live cultures in them. Most commercial pickles for example have been pasteurised. This kills the bacteria and makes for a longer shelf life.
If you look, you can find varieties with live cultures (often in the refrigerated section), and you can make many of these fermented foods at home as well. Let’s run through a few of them.
Yoghurt is so versatile. You can eat it plain, sweeten it with a little fruit or honey, turn it into a filling meal by adding grains like oats, or turn it into a portable breakfast by making a smoothie.
Look for live culture yoghurts and stay away from varieties that have a lot of added sugar. The sugar is counterproductive by feeding the bad bacteria we don’t want in our gut.
If you like yogurt, you’re going to love Kefir. It has quite a lot more probiotics and cultures that you can’t get from your yogurt. With a similar flavour profile, it’s great for smoothies.
You can purchase kefir, or make your own using kefir grains. The process involves leaving a cup of unpasteurised milk mixed with the grains out on the counter for about twenty-four hours. It will thicken and acquire the tart, mildly cheesy taste it is known for.
Let’s round out this discussion by talking about cheese. Cheese is made with the help of bacteria. If you can find unpasteurised cheese, you can count it towards your probiotic food intake.
Sauerkraut & Other Lacto-Fermented Veggies
Sauerkraut is a great probiotic-rich food. Look for the kind in the refrigerated section that hasn’t been pasturized, or make your own. All it takes is a clean container, cabbage, salt, and time.
You can ferment and preserve other vegetables in the same way. Search lacto fermentation. Carrots and cucumbers are great options when you’re starting out. Kimchi is another fun option that you can often find at your local grocery store.
Keep trying different probiotic rich foods and add a commercial probiotic when you need that extra boost (after a round of antibiotics for example).