By Jenn Bruer
If you don’t take probiotics, for whatever reason, there are other ways to get your healthy bacteria in:
Kefir, is a fermented milk product that is a very rich source of healthy bacteria- in fact it far surpasses yogurt, yogurt typically has 1-3 strains or of bacteria but kefir has 30 or more! It does taste nasty in my opinion but can easily be added to smoothies and the flavour is well hidden. Most people say it tastes like a milk and champagne mixture. If anyone in the Mississauga area is looking for Kefir “grains” (the starter for your homemade kefir) I have some to share, just message me.
Yogurt is an obvious one! If you can handle the flavour, choose plain full-fat yogurt and add some berries (which are low glycemic) and a small amount of un-pasteurized honey- just enough to enhance the flavour. Un-pasteurized honey also has probiotic properties, not to mention anti-fungal and anti-viral properties! FYI, Costo sells a good un-pasteurized honey. I’ve mentioned full-fat here… I’ll chat about why full-fat another time.
If you have issues with lactose (the sugar found in milk) then these milk products, and hard cheeses too, are good because the healthy bacteria actually consume most of the lactose found in milk. This process unfortunately doesn’t address the casein (the protein that some people are allergic to), so if you struggle with casein, these options might not be a good choice for you.
If you don’t do dairy don’t fear there are many other choices! Here are some non-dairy options:
Kambucha. This word is popping up all over the place! Kambucha is a very flavourful fermented tea. You can get this at any organic market, like Heart Beets, Whole Foods, and maybe even Lawblaws. Just watch for the sugar content though because some are loaded with it.
Kefir can be made with coconut milk or almond milk, or you can even make kefir water.
Fermented veggies or pickles! These taste way better then the vinegar pickles we’ve all grown accustomed to and they are filled with healthy bacteria! If you want a real fermented pickle just look in the refrigerator isle of the grocery store – they are made with a salt brine and not vinegar. Think about it, anything that is fermented needs to eventually be refrigerated or the bacteria will continue to grow. My personal favourite brand of pickles is Bubbies.
Sauerkraut is a fermented cabbage, if you have not paired some kraut with some spicy italian sausage you are missing out totally! Just be sure not to choose the kraut that has been pasteurized – pasteurizing kills good bacteria. Do not get your kraut from the isle, again, get it from the fridge; if it is in the pickle isle it is not naturally fermented (or maybe it was and then they boiled it!).
Kimchi is a korean spicy fermented cabbage similar to sauerkraut and it’s very flavourful served next to spicy beef.
Natto and tempeh are traditional foods from other parts of the world made of fermented soy. This is the only time I recommend coming even close to soy (like tofu) as I believe soy to be very damaging to our health with it’s estrogen-mimicking properties. I personally have never had either of them because they both looks absolutely disgusting, but hey, I had to mention it as a fermented food!
Why should you try to get in your fermented foods? Fermented foods/probiotics/good bacteria all help improve digestion; they are rich in enzymes and vitamins, they help to restore proper bacteria in the gut, they reduce gas, bloating and other digestive issues, and they heal the lining of your gut so that more nutrients from other foods can be more readily absorbed. Think about it like this- if you have a damaged gut lining your food will pass through you with little absorption. If you have a healthy gut lining you will absorb more nutrients from your food. A win/win situation.