Look after your gut, and sure enough it will look after you!
Something you can expect to hear me talk a lot about here is gut/digestive health; what damages it, what nourishes it, the vast amount of roles our gut and the microbiome (the bacteria in our gut) play in numerous functions, and the massive links between gut health, symptoms and chronic diseases.
In short if you want to be in optimal health you need to support your gut and all it’s amazing inhabitants, they help determine how well your immune system works, how efficiently you absorb nutrients, how good of a mood your in, how easily you store fat, and a number of other factors we don’t necessarily associate with digestion.
One way we can support levels of good bacteria in the gut is to eat plenty of probiotic and prebiotic foods; prebiotics are just as, if not more, important as probiotics as they feed the good guys. Keeping them happy and well fuelled is a priority, so try getting in plenty of prebiotic rich veg daily such as leeks, onions, asparagus, garlic, artichokes, and starchy veg like sweet potato and squash.
For this particular post I want to focus on probiotic foods. You can of course take a probiotic supplement, and this is something I regularly recommend for a number of conditions or goals, or if a client is in need of an extra boost; for example after taking antibiotics or having a bout of illness. However, this is not something I would necessarily keep up forever, instead including probiotic foods daily (or just as often as you can) can go a long way in promoting overall health.
There is more to probiotic foods than yogurt, and the greater variety the better! To give you an idea of how you can get in more of these healing tummy loving foods in I have included an example of my top 5 sources below, along with a helping hand on how you can start having a go at D.I.Y ferments.
Or really any type of fermented vegetable, you can buy or make ones that use carrots or beets too. As well as beneficial bacteria the fermentation process also ramps up the nutritional value in other ways, providing us with vitamin B for example. If you have issues digesting certain veg raw such as cabbage, fermentation can also make this easier to digest. I love sauerkraut because of how effortlessly I can include it in meals every day; mixed into salads, rolled into wraps, topping homemade burgers as a nutritious slaw replacement, honestly I just have it as a side with any protein and veg – No special recipe required.
When buying be sure to get it from the refrigerated section and labelled as raw, but if you don’t fancy buying, as many of the fermented foods they can be a little pricey, you can always have a go at making it. Once you have a good jar it is incredibly cheap with cabbage and salt being all you really need…..that and some patience as it can take a couple of weeks to be ready. There are pages of recipes on google to explore but here is a simple example to start with.
A healthy refreshing fizzy drink that promotes health, yes please! You can pour it over ice if you’re feeling extra fancy. The zingy flavour can be a little overpowering for some but if you are buying it there are so many flavours to choose from now; from fruity sweet berries to ginger and lime. The main components of this though is green tea and sugar that has been fermented to provide the probiotic content.
To make your own you can buy what is called a SCOBY on amazon (stands for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, I know it sounds gross to eat, but you’re full of bacteria so best to get over it ;)). Here is one I bought a while back, I’ll be sure to follow up with a recipe post specifically on this soon too.
Another drink to try if you are not a fan of the rather strong fizz is kefir, which you can make or buy as water kefir or milk kefir. Dairy a no no for you? Coconut milk or coconut water kefir is brilliant, plus you get some bonus healthy fats.
Alternatively you can invest in some kefir grains for a money saving option in the long term, both kombucha and kefir are super easy to make and master, but kefir will take less time overall. Again available to order from amazon (look for organic) this post from the Cheeseslave shows how easy the whole process is step by step, feel free to experiment with goats or coconut milk too.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Another easy to incorporate fermented food is apple cider vinegar, as long as you look for a brand that is labelled as ‘raw’ or ‘unpasteurised’, it may also say ‘with the mother’ and this refers to the sediment you can see at the bottom of the bottle. However I would not use this as the only source of fermented food in your diet as it lacks the same beneficial bacteria in the fermented veg, kefir or kombucha, but a brilliant digestive aid nonetheless.
Organic Yogurt and coconut/nut milk yogurt
Lastly the most well known and popular source of probiotics; yogurt, but bare in mind that not all are created equal. Those yogurt drinks advertised to boost tummy health usually come with added sugar, sweeteners or other additives, and are best avoided. Dairy is something I strongly recommend you buy organic, and check the ingredient label for those added cultures, however there are now a variety of great quality and totally delicious coconut or nut milk yogurts, such as coyo or the coconut collaborative. Generally yogurt will have less strains of beneficial bacteria than the above so try to aim for another source on top of it.
I hope this inspires you to experiment with a variety of fermented foods, here are some last take away points;
- A variety is better – the more probiotic foods, the more diversity of bacterial strains.
- Homemade is cheaper and will generally guarantee a higher amount of probiotics, plus you know exactly what is in there.
- Homemade also takes some patience so plan ahead for when you want it.
- Probiotic foods can easily be incorporated into everyday meals and drinks.
Have you any favourite probiotic foods or a go to recipe for homemade versions?