The Microbiome Diet ABCs: A is for Add Probiotics

This week I would like to go into a little more detail on naturally occurring Probiotics – an important element in your Microbiome Diet to promote great health in your Second Middle Age.

As outlined in last week’s post on the Microbiome Diet, consumption of natural probiotics can support the immune system and fight inflammation for your healthy Second Middle Age. 

There is an increasing body of research supporting inclusion of probiotic foods to enhance microbial diversity in the gastrointestinal tract for better longterm health. 

But what exactly are probiotic foods, and how should they be included in your diet?

Natural probiotic foods containing live bacteria include fermented dairy products, fermented soy and other vegetables (e.g. pickles), and sourdough bread. Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria, for example, are 2 highly beneficial families of microbes found in fermented dairy products and other probiotic foods. They have been studied in detail for their beneficial effects on antibiotic-associated diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome.  

What does this mean in practical terms? 

While it remains unclear what the minimum recommend daily requirements are, it is a good idea to eat at least one serving of fermented dairy every day, i.e., one cup of  unsweetened kefir, yogurt or leben.   Culture-rich cheeses (blue, brie, camembert and also traditional cheddars, Gouda, and Gruyere or other Alpine cheeses) remain controversial as sources of important microbes.

Other highly nutritious and delicious probiotic foods include traditional pickles, e.g., kimchi, sauerkraut;  fermented soy (miso, natto & tempeh), Kombucha (fermented tea), & sourdough bread. And interestingly enough, the benefits conveyed by eating different probiotic foods appear to be varied and quite substantial. For example:

  • Kimchi has been studied for a number of health benefits, including clinical trials – studies of people actively eating Kimchi on a regular basis – where consistent Kimchi consumption has been associated with improvements in insulin resistance, blood pressure and cholesterol. Kimchi is a great way to add interest to your favorite foods and I like to add my home-made Kimchi (left) salads, veggie burgers, and just about anything that needs a little bit of a flavor kick. (If you make your own Kimchi you can make it more or less spicy to suit your own taste.)

  • Fermented soy products including miso, natto and tempeh, also include Lactobacillus, and may provide cardio-vascular and circulatory benefits.  I like to add 1 – 2 tablespoons of miso to stir fry sauces and marinades.
  • Sourdough breads (and sourdough pancakes, muffins, etc.), also contain Lactobacillus culture in symbiotic combination with yeasts, and are more nutritious than other breads, including higher levels of folate and antioxidants, and improved bioavailability.  (If you have never had a sourdough English Muffin you are really in for a treat.)

Once you get started, it can be fun to make fermented foods at home; e.g., baking your own sourdough breads, or finding your favorite recipe for sour dill pickles or kimchi.

When you buy probiotic foods, take a good look at the labels to be sure that they are truly fermented, i.e., including live bacteria or labeled as ‘bio-active.’. This is particularly important for sourdough breads – always read the small print.

Given all the different types of natural probiotic foods, chances are, you may already be enjoying delicious probiotics in your diet without even realizing it.

And every culture has its own traditional fermented foods.

What’s your favorite?  

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