Want to improve your health this year? Experience greater vitality? Start at the root – your gut. Eat your vegetables, get plenty of healthy fats, add gelatin to your diet…and don’t forget the healthy bacteria!
I like to keep a steady stream of probiotic-rich foods in my family’s diet. We have some no-work staples around here that I can easily grab. They have actually become some of my children’s favorite foods!
3 major benefits of probiotics:
- Recently I wrote about two studies that showed children who received probiotics in their milk/formula were notably healthier through the school year than those who didn’t (fewer and milder colds and flus).
- The state of one person’s digestion impacts the entire family (and beyond). When tested, members of the same household show a similar composition of gut flora. Keep your digestion happy and your kids will benefit by bacterial osmosis!
- Have you heard of the gut-brain axis? There is a strong & direct link between the state of digestion and the state of the mind. Here’s an example – 90% of the body’s serotonin (the “happy neurotransmitter”) resides in the gut. Want to regulate your mood? Keep your tummy in balance.
6 simple ways to include probiotics in the diet:
1. Fermented Cucumbers and Pickle Juice. You heard me right. Pickles. Or, you heard me again, if you read my last post with a recipe for a perfect egg salad infused with probiotics from Bubbies Kosher Dills. Conventional pickles (pickled in vinegar) don’t count. You’ll need the old-fashioned kind, lacto-fermented in salty water. Bubbies is a brand that is widely available in grocery stores. (They are dairy free. “Lacto” refers to lactic acid which is the culturing agent.) We love the tangy, slightly spicy crunch!
In the photo above, I added them to salmon salad. Two ingredients – canned salmon (undrained) & pickles to taste. Is that even technically a recipe? Well, either way I’m going to post it soon, just so I can refer back to it when I get back to posting meal plans.
2. Raw Apple Cider Vinegar. I usually dress salads with extra virgin olive oil and raw apple cider vinegar (RACV) plus a dash of salt and pepper. It’s easy, I always have it around and it’s my kids’ favorite (thankfully they will often eat salad even when they’re not up for other vegetables).
The sediment at the bottom, “the mother”, is what naturally ferments the apple cider. It has to be raw.
As a bonus, RACV has a strong alkalizing effect on the body and can lower blood pressure. It can be taken therapeutically by mixing a spoonful or two of RACV and a little raw honey into a tall glass of cool water.
3. Sauerkraut. My daughter is by no means an adventurous eater, but she will happily chow down on some raw kraut. My son, not so much (it’s good to catch them when they’re toddlers). But we do remind him that he likes it when it’s cooked and sweetened with applesauce alongside sausages!
You’ll want to buy it out of the refrigerated section, preferably without preservatives. I found the kind pictured above at Whole Foods in the meat section (near the hot dogs). It’s only $3 and we spoon a little bit onto our plates as a side. The juice is also rich in probiotics and can be spooned into soup once it has cooled slightly, to preserve the live cultures.
4. Water kefir – a probiotic soda. OK, it’s not exactly “no-work” but it’s just about as easy to make as lemonade so I decided to include it. Cost effective too! The culture can be used over and over indefinitely to make as much of this beautiful drink as you’d like. Ours has been going for almost a year!
My kids love this stuff so it makes the perfect healthy treat. Blueberry soda and tangy grape are our favorites right now. Head over to the Nourishing Gourmet to see a water kefir step-by-step guide and a write up of our personal experience with it.
5. Milk kefir. We haven’t been drinking this much lately because we do better minimizing dairy during the winter, but it is a great way to get probiotics in. We mix plain with an organic flavored kefir and it hits the spot when my kids are prowling for something sweet.
Kefir is generally a better source of probiotics than yogurt and my kids prefer the taste. But yogurt can be a great option as well (preferrably plain, lightly sweetened with honey or maple syrup.)
6. Probiotic capsules. We haven’t needed these in a while since we’ve been regularly incorporating probiotic-rich foods into our diet. But they come in handy on trips and when we need an extra boost. We’ve sprinkled them on the kids’ food if they need them.
A probiotic supplement makes a nice gift for a new mom who needs an easy way to take care of herself and boost energy and immunity. And I have an elderly friend to whom I deliver these from time to time. They make a huge impact on her health! Night and day.
These are the probiotics we take when we need them. They are a good deal on Amazon right now!
I hope you picked up a simple idea or two that you can easily to slip into your routine. If you’re not used to eating fermented foods regularly, add them in slowly to get accustomed to the healthy bacteria. Soon you can branch out. Including several different sources of probiotic-rich foods will provide a wider spectrum of probiotics and even greater health rewards!