Fermented and cultured foods are foods that increase the good gut bacteria in your body and they should be eaten daily by everyone for great health. Having enough beneficial gut bacteria is important on so many levels. These beneficial bacteria help fight off toxins in the body and also help to balance our hormones, produce serotonin for the brain to prevent depression, keep our immune systems working well, and give us efficient digestion. The best part is, though supplements are available, we have a vast amount of probiotic rich foods that contain these good gut bacteria, right at our fingertips. These foods have been around for ages and now are actually becoming a healthy trend. Trendy or not, eat these foods that increase your good gut bacteria so you can not only feel great, but reduce your cravings, manage your weight and avoid getting sick.
Kimchi, which is a mix of veggies that have been left to ferment with water and some spices such as red peppers, is one of my favorite foods that increase your good gut bacteria. It is a Korean version of sauerkraut, and is extremely rich in enzymes, vitamins, minerals and probiotics to aid in gut health. Kimchi is also so tasty! Just one or two tablespoons is all you need to make a dramatic improvement in your digestive system. Kimchi usually includes cabbage, onions, garlic and red peppers. Some versions also include ginger, celery, carrots and salt. Kimchi is a great source of vitamins A and C, so you can totally count it as a serving of veggies for the day! It tastes great on salads, veggie or regular burgers, as a topping for any cooked dish, or by itself!
Sauerkraut is an America classic made from just cabbage, salt and water which is left to ferment to produce probiotics and aid in food preservation. Though most of think of it as a topping for hot dogs, original sauerkraut was created to be a way to preserve food during times of famine and treat gut-related illness in the early 1900s. Sauerkraut adds a delicious zesty element to dishes that helps fight cravings and aid digestion of other foods. I recommend making your own at home or buying an organic brand such as Eden Foods.
Though dairy is said to be avoided these days, yogurt is a special circumstance, and actually great for your body. Unless you’re sensitive to dairy products, yogurt is one of the best and most affordable sources of probiotics you can buy, or even make if you want to. It fights off yeasts in the body, wards off sugar cravings, is rich in protein, low in calories and if you buy the fat free, unsweetened Greek kind, it can be a great substitute for meat due to its high protein content. It is also great for weight loss since it is rich in calcium, Vitamin D and Vitamin B12 which aid in combating cravings, energy levels, and excess weight gain. Be sure to look for yogurt that is hormone free, has no added sugar and is low in fat. It should contain the seal for live and active cultures, and it should include nothing but cultured milk in the ingredients list. Look for the specific cultures such as L. Acidophillus and Bifidus on the ingredients list, which are two of the healthiest cultures for digestive health.
Kefir is made from kefir grains, which aren't really grains, but a collection of beneficial bacterial yeasts. Kefir grains are fermented with liquid to produce kefir. Dairy based kefir is similar to yogurt, though much richer in probiotics than yogurt is. You can buy kefir grains online or in stores and make your own kefir using any type of liquid medium such as dairy milk, goats milk, coconut milk, almond milk, or coconut water. There are many types of recipes online and I highly suggest adding kefir to your diet however you can. It is a potent source of probiotics and extremely great for your whole body.
Did you know the common pickle is an excellent source of probiotics? It’s true! Just one tablespoon of natural pickles or one pickle strip a day is a great way to add good bacteria to your gut. The important part is to buy a natural relish, without added sugars, food colorings, preservatives or vinegars, and the same goes for pickles. My favorite store bought brand is Bubbles pickles, which you can find at Whole Foods. This brand is affordable, rich in enzymes and probiotics, and so delicious! I love adding Bubbles brand dill pickle relish to my salads and my tuna for an easy probiotic boost to my day! You can also make your own at home if you like and there are many recipes online you can find to help you.
Certain veggies like asparagus have wonderful benefits for your digestive health. Asparagus contains a natural prebiotic fiber known as inulin. Inulin is special because the fibers in it feed the good bacteria in your gut and help remove the harmful ones from your digestive tract. Asparagus has 4 grams of fiber per serving and is low in calories. It is also a wonderful source of Vitamins A and C, and also rich in folate, an important B vitamin for women. I love grilled asparagus and always notice a huge improvement in my digestion when I eat it.
Onions are another prebiotic food rich in inulin, just like asparagus is. Onions also have some extra digestive benefits to them. Onions are a great source of sulfur, which acts like a weapon against harmful bacteria in the gut, helping to remove it from the body, and also removes toxins from the liver. Garlic offers this same benefit. Onions are a great way to fight off yeast in the body and any time you suffer carb cravings or yeast infections, try making some onion soup. All you do is add 3 cups of water with 1 cup chopped onions, veggie broth, some chopped celery, a garlic clove, some chopped carrots and some Himalayan sea salt, oregano and bay leaves. I like to cook it in a slow cooker to let the flavors really set in too. Eat this once a day and your immune system and digestive system will be back on track in no time!
I love canned artichoke hearts! You can buy them whole and cook them yourself, but I liked buying the organic canned varieties that have BPA free liners from Whole Foods. They are easy to toss on salads and are so wonderful for your digestive health. Artichokes aren’t just deliciously tangy and somewhat sweet, but also very high in inulin, that special prebiotic I mentioned. It feeds all the healthy bacteria in your digestive system and increases the potency of any probiotics you are taking. Inulin found in artichokes also helps to produce more good bacteria in your gut. Eaten with a diet rich in probiotic foods will help produce the best results of all, so be sure to get in as many prebiotic and probiotic foods as virtually possible.
9. Apple Cider Vinegar
Oh, how I adore apple cider vinegar! Most vinegars are actually harmful for your digestive health. They are hard on the liver, and aren’t raw, therefore they produce a form of alcohol after they are made. This feeds yeasts, harmful bacteria and creates a huge burden for the liver to remove. Raw apple cider vinegar is completely different. Since it is raw, it is rich in enzymes, probiotics and prebiotics. It is a great source of Vitamin C, and is also a natural diuretic if you suffer bloating and water weight from digestive issues. This special vinegar is actually helpful to your liver and helps it remove toxins faster and more efficiently. I suggest buying an organic brand such as Bragg’s Organic Raw Apple Cider Vinegar, which contains “the mother”, which is the beneficial yeast used to produce the probiotics in this potent elixir. Use it on salads instead of dressing, or to make your own salad dressing. You can also add it to homemade juices, smoothies, and you only need 1 tablespoon per day to make a difference. I like drinking it in cold iced lemon water with a little stevia for a great afternoon pick me up!
If you suffer IBS, any digestive problems, have a weakened immune system, or are just lacking in energy, try adding more probiotic and prebiotic rich foods like these above to your daily diet. You should also quit eating and drinking refined sugars, added sugars, refined grains and as many processed foods as you can. I love how these foods aren’t just good for me, but tasty too! Do you eat any of these gut-friendly foods?