By now most of you will have heard of probiotics, the good guys in our bellies that keep the gut and immune system in order. I think it’s fair to say most of us don’t really include them in our diet. That being said there is definitely much more mainstream chat about the subject, but perhaps only the people in the health industry are really taking notice.
Soy beans have always been off limits in the primal world, however when fermented the anti-nutrient potential is dramatically diminished, and the health benefits from the bacteria soon outweigh any negatives.
If you browse in your local health food store you can find all different kinds of strains of probiotics, these can be expensive and often confusing. So, what if we can get some great ‘good’ bacteria into our daily diets just by adding different types of foods to our dinner plates?
I have put together a list of foods that you may, or may not, have heard of that could really boost your health by adding their unique strains of probiotics to your hungry guts.
5 Ways to Get More Probiotics Without Supplementation
Kefir is a yogurt style drink with a slightly tart flavour, it can be made from any type of milk but from a primal perspective the less processed the better. The kefir grains are fermented in the milk to produce the end result. The best choice would be to opt for a raw milk kefir if you can get your hands on it. You can also make your own kefir using coconut milk and a kefir starter kit. Kefir is best enjoyed straight, added to smoothies, or alongside some berries for a tasty snack.
Aside from the probiotic benefits, there are many nutritional ones too. The nutritional value will however differ depending upon what kind of milk the kefir has been made from. Coconut milk will give you a boost in medium chain fatty acids, whereas raw milk will give you a whole host of vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, D, and B, and the minerals zinc, magnesium, and calcium.
Kefir has also been reported to reduce lactose intolerance symptoms, stimulate the immune system, and lower cholesterol.1
Sauerkraut is a pickled cabbage, you have probably seen this a lot in most supermarkets. However, you’ll probably find that it is not raw, has likely been pasteurised, and therefore unlikely to contain any beneficial bacteria. Health food stores sell the raw varieties but you could always make your own – there are plenty of guided recipes out there. Sauerkraut is a real go to food that helps to heal your gut, especially if you have had an upset stomach or taken a course of antibiotics. Try adding some kraut to your salads or on top of your meat at dinner – it adds a lovely acidic bite to any meal.
Chris Kresser, a leading practitioner in the holistic health sector, suggests eating fermented foods like sauerkraut to help rebuild your gut flora and aid with repair. Rich in fibre, vitamin C, and vitamin K.
Kimchi is a traditional Korean fermented side dish, similar to sauerkraut but made with a variety of vegetables such as napa cabbage, radish, spring onions, or cucumber. It is often flavoured with spices such as ginger, garlic, red chilli pepper flakes, and even fish sauce is known to be added. Kimchi has similar health benefits to sauerkraut being rich in vitamins A and C.
Natto is a traditional Japanese staple consisting of fermented soy beans. Soy beans have always been off limits in the primal world, however when fermented the anti-nutrient potential is dramatically diminished, and the health benefits from the bacteria soon outweigh any negatives. Natto contains a good amount of fibre, vitamin C, and is one of the only non-animal sources of vitamin K2, not to be mistaken for vitamin K. Vitamin K2 is used in placement of calcium into the proper places in the body. One study seems to support this by showing an increased circulation of vitamin K2 in conjunction with eating natto.2
Natto also contains manganese and iron. It is very much an acquired taste, quite bitter, but certainly worth experimenting with.
Another fermented option but in the form of a sweet tea drink. Kombucha is made usually from green/black tea with added sugar – the probiotic bacteria created in kombucha is from what is known as a ‘scoby’ or ‘kombucha mushroom’. The scoby consumes almost all the added sugar in the fermentation process, leaving a slightly sour, fizzy, and pleasant tasting drink.
Kombucha has been found to shorten the life of a common cold, help fight candida, and detoxify the liver. This probiotic drink is also high in polyphenols, B vitamins, and vitamin C. Kombucha makes for a nice change and packs a pleasingly fizzy punch on the palate.
There is a good selection to choose from here, adding something like sauerkraut is simple and somewhere I suggest people start, and if you make it yourself it is super cheap. It will last you a long time and you don’t really need to eat a huge amount to get some beneficial bacteria into your belly. As I said, if you have had a course of antibiotics recently now is the time to start re-populating our gut, your body will thank you for it in the long run.
How do you get your probiotics without supplementation? I would love to know if you have tried any of the above foods, which ones do you recommend?
- Guzel-Seydim, Z., Kok-Tas, T., Greene, A. and Seydim, A. (2011). Review: Functional properties of kefir. In Critical reviews in food science and nutrition., 51(3), pp. 261–8. Retrieved February 11, 2016, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21390946
- Tsukamoto, Y., Ichise, H., Kakuda, H. and Yamaguchi, M. (2000). Intake of fermented soybean (natto) increases circulating vitamin K2 (menaquinone-7) and gamma-carboxylated osteocalcin concentration in normal individuals. In Journal of bone and mineral metabolism., 18(4), pp. 216–22. Retrieved February 12, 2016, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10874601