By now you are probably familiar with the term “probiotic” and why they are so important. Probiotics are healthy bacteria and yeast that support your digestive tract, immune system and more. Sadly, due a poor diets that are high in sugar and processed foods along with the overuse of antibiotics and anti-bacterial everything–the healthy bacteria in our gut can be depleted (sad face). Not to worry, a diet rich in vegetables (another reason to gobble them up)–which contain prebiotic fibers that feed the healthy bacteria–and the inclusion of fermented foods can help to right your system. Sure, you can take a probiotic supplement –and this may be a good idea– but it is more fun to eat your way to better health, right? Here are my picks for good-for-you probiotic rich fermented foods. You might be amazed at the diversity of the offerings and that is good thing because you are more likely to find a product or two that is enjoyable to you! From sauerkraut to kimchi, miso and kvass–fermented foods are all the rage! Here are a few tips to make sure those healthy bacteria are vibrant and thriving when you eat them:
- Most probiotic rich foods should be consumed raw or cold as heat can kill the healthy bacteria.
- Look for yogurts and kefirs that are cultured after pasteurization otherwise the bacteria used to ferment them will be moot. The packaging will say “live/active cultures”. Same goes for tempeh and tofu. Maybe store bought varieties have been pasteurized which is why I opted for a locally made version that boast live cultures.
- Beware of vinegar! Not all pickles are created equal. Pickles that use a vinegar based brine will not be rich in probiotics. Instead, look for a refrigerated pickle that uses salt (lacto-fermentation) to ferment the product. The packaging will likely say “no vinegar added” and there will be a cloudy appearance to the liquid.
- Miso should be tempered into a warm liquid to protect the healthy bacteria. If you boil it you will kill them
- Don’t fret if you are lactose intolerant or can’t eat dairy! There are so many dairy-free fermented food options. Check out the coconut water kefir shots which are a new personal favorite!