What are Probiotics?
Introducing nutrient-rich foods into our daily rotation has been proven to boost energy levels and protect against conditions such as respiratory infections, leaky gut syndrome, and a myriad of digestive issues that leave us feeling at our worst. Natural foods that promote gut health derive their benefits from probiotic bacteria, including species such as L. acidophilus, B. lactis, S. boulardii, and other difficult-to-pronounce ones you’ll find on the back of expensive supplement bottles. These microorganisms interact with the nerves of your stomach with god-level digestion benefits – gains like IBS solutions, treating Crohn’s Disease, and relieving skin conditions such as eczema. Mankind has known about the gut health benefits of yogurt, kefir, pickled vegetables, and other fermented foods for millennia, but the exact science behind it still holds many secrets.
You can get the benefits of probiotics through supplements, but fermented foods typically have a range of other nutritional benefits. Sauerkraut, for instance, contains a rich powerhouse of Vitamin C. When it comes to good bacteria, we’re unequivocal in the idea that homemade fermented foods are the holy grail in looking and feeling 100%.
Homemade Foods that Heal
Fermented foods often cure common stomach problems such as constipation, bloating, and mild digestive issues. And when you DIY fermented foods, it can make things like store-bough yoghurt and kombucha far friendlier on your wallet. You also have control over all of the ingredients and can ensure your foods are free of unnecessary additives.
If you’re not crazy about spending a lot of time in the kitchen (like so many of us sofa-saddled Netflix bingers), you’ll be delighted to know that pickled vegetables are extremely easy to make. Making your own milk kefir is also effortless, and yoghurt isn’t too challenging either. If you’re a baking enthusiast, you’ll never go back to store-bought once you try your hand at homemade sourdough (but let’s not get ahead of ourselves, just yet. Baby steps…)
Pickled vegetables that aren’t just for Oktoberfest
Did you know you can pickle most vegetables with a simple brine of clean water and good sea salt? Easy life hack: the process can be as simple as tossing cucumber, cauliflower, and carrots in a glass jar filled with brine. There’s no need to stop yourself there, though: garlic and other aromatics add a potent touch to jars of pickled vegetables. Crushed peppercorn, red peppers, dill, and other herbs and spices allow you to inflect the final product with your own unique flavour-style.
The versatility of milk kefir
Fermenting milk to make kefir is also an easy-peasy way to start eating for gut health. Kefir is a drink that’s extremely popular in many parts of the world, but the flavour may be a bit sour for some. The great news is that there are ways to tailor it to your preferences. Adding in a bit of vanilla ice cream, some honey, or other sweeteners will give you a sweet, creamy drink to enjoy on a hot summer day. Making kefir is as simple as adding a kefir culture – a living colony of good bacteria – to milk in an unsecured jar. The bacteria consume the sugars in the milk and after about a day, you’ll have a jar’s worth of tasty kefir.
Live until you’re 100
Fun fact: did you know that the average Bulgarian eats 100 pounds of yoghurt a year? The nation has a remarkably high number of citizens over 100 years old, and it could be due to the potency of probiotic starter in its yoghurt. A good, full-fat Greek-style yoghurt is another delicious and versatile way to get your daily dose of probiotics. Healthy salad dressings, savory sauces, and delicious side dishes are just the start.
Yoghurt can make a bland breakfast more nutritious, particularly if you toss in a handful of mixed berries. And the best bit is that you can enjoy this health boost for pennies if you buy a starter culture. Similar to kefir, a culture will take your milk and transform it into yogurt if you can provide the right temperature for it. If you’re interested in an especially thick yogurt that’s rich in protein, a Greek starter will be good for you.
Sourdough isn’t just for Instagram
Under COVID-lockdowns, our Instagram feeds became a sea of sourdough-baking enthusiast posts. Bread baking is a labor of love, and if you’re the kind of person who loves a challenge, making your own sourdough will save a trip to the bakery (and some cash). The key to making your own sourdough is creating a starter dough that spends three or more days fermenting, and it can be quite tricky to do properly. However, homemade sourdough is more than worth the effort (and the props you’ll score by sharing your legendary results). In addition to the excellent health value you’re here for, you’ll also enjoy an intense, yet subtle flavor that store-bought bread will never match. This is a great choice to combine gut-healthy fermented food with your love of the kitchen, but the other options are generally easier and more accessible.
It’s easier than you think
This is just the tip of the iceberg of all the healthy, delicious fermented foods you can make at home. While the benefits include treating bloating, colitis, constipation, and many other conditions, they don’t end there. Probiotics are great brain foods that boost concentration and energy levels, helping you think more clearly and hack daily productivity levels.