Are you sick and catching colds often? Bloated? Gassy? Irregular? Sluggish? Tired more often than you think you should be?
This could be for a variety of reasons, but for many of us it has to do with the balance of our gut bacteria – good and bad – and what you’re feeding them.
There are good bacteria in your gut and there are bad bacteria in your gut. These two types of bacteria line your skin, tongue, intestines and many other parts of your body. We need this bacteria for our survival, which is why 100 trillion of them exist to keep many functions of our body going.
The intestines are where most of our digestion takes place, but we need to have good bacteria in there in order to absorb all of the vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, enzymes and antioxidants that we consume. So even if you are making an effort to include healthy foods in your diet, if you continue to eat processed foods low in fiber, high in sugar, full of trans fats and preservatives, then you are feeding your bad bacteria and depleting the good bacteria your body really needs.
If you truly care about your gut health and overall health, then it’s time to ditch the processed foods and eat the foods that will help us absorb more nutrients as well as feed and multiply our good bacteria.
One simple way to do this is by incorporating more probiotic-rich fermented foods into your diet. Here are my favorites:
1) Miso and Kimchi
Not too many meals in Japan go without Miso soup, which is made from fermented soybeans. Fermented soy products have been eaten by the Japanese for centuries, helping to keep them healthy and vibrant. Studied have backed this claim as fermented soy products like Miso are void of any anti-nutrients (definition here), and they’re high iron, copper, calcium, potassium, B vitamins, enzymes and protein. Look for Miso pastes in specialty grocery stores and make sure they’re GMO free.
A meal in Korea without Kimchi is not a meal at all. Korean’s consume 40lbs per person per year of Kimchi and have it with practically every dish. Kimchi is fermented Napa Cabbage with radish, carrots, chilies, green onions, garlic and ginger. The mixture of vegetables, herbs, spices and good bacteria formed by the fermentation make this Korean staple delicious and nutritious.
A Korean study found that those who consume large amounts of Kimchi we’re able to prevent skin ailments like eczema. So eat up this fermented cabbage either by buying it at the grocery store or when out for a Korean meal.
This fermented cabbage dish originates from Germany. While it is more readily available than Kimchi, be cautious when purchasing at the grocery store. Some of the readily available brands are not fermented – they are simply cooked cabbage with salt and vinegar – which don’t have any of the beneficial bacteria. Buying Sauerkraut from an artisanal stand at the farmers market is always best, but these brands are also a great and available at most grocery stores.
Sauerkraut is easy to integrate into your diet. Have it as a side with any meal and maybe even try to make your own (check out these recipes)!
Nobel Prize winner Dr. Elie Metchnikoff was one of the first scientists to recognize the benefits of eating fermented foods and believed that yogurt-consuming Bulgarian peasants lived longer lives because it.
Whole (very important that it’s whole and not low fat), organic and preferably unpasteurized yogurt brands are now readily available. Kefir is more liquid and somewhat drinkable, but equally delicious. If you’ve got a problem with dairy, coconut kefir has become super popular, easy to make at home, and is super delicious.
Wondering about good yogurt brands? Read this blog.
In ancient China, Kombucha was known as the”The Tea of Immortality.” Kombucha is essentially fermented tea made from a culture that looks like a big pancake known as a ‘scoby’. The scoby is full of good bacteria, but what’s also great is that the acid formed during fermentation attacks the bad bacteria in the gut.
When buying Kombucha, double check the label to make sure there are no added sugars or funky ingredients. The plainer the better!
5) Pickled Turnips, Beets and Cucumbers
Just like traditional Kimchi and Sauerkraut, other fermented vegetables will provide very similar benefits. For those of you who might dislike the idea of fermented cabbage, try pickled cucumbers, turnips and or beets. They are milder and sometimes a bit sweeter. They’re also super easy to make at home – try this recipe for beets and this one for cucumbers.
It’s time to re-integrate these traditional foods into our diets. Not only will you awaken your palate, you’ll also boost your immune system and absorb more nutrients. Remember – tasty food and healthy food are not mutually exclusive.
6) Sourdough bread
Sourdough bread contains both probiotics (good bacteria) and probiotics (fibers that feed good bacteria. They’re formed through the slow process of fermentation which occurs when wild yeast from the air interact with bacteria in whole wheat flour. This is the process that causes the dough to rise as well as making it healthier and more digestible by:
- breaking down tough to digest gluten and FODMAP (fermentable sugars).
- Making zinc, potassium, magnesium and other nutrients more absorbable by degrading the anti-nutrient phytate (inflammatory causing substance) often found in grains.
- making folic acid and antioxidants more available to the body
- lowering the flours glycemic index – lessening insulin spikes
It’s best to by Sourdough bread from an artisinal maker, your local bakery or from your local farmers market because many chain grocery stores will make sourdough using active yeast or brewer’s yeast which is fast for of fermentation and won’t create the health benefits mentioned above. Alternatively you make your own by learning to make a sourdough starter. Check out this video for the starter and this one for the actual bread.
Cheers! To good bacteria 🙂