Healthy immunity, digestion and weight all start in the most unlikely place: your gut. Your body is filled with trillions of live microorganisms known as intestinal flora. Keeping this beneficial bacteria in balance helps support your natural defenses––and up to 70 percent of your immunity starts in your gut.
The path to supporting gut health is paved in probiotics. In fact, the word probiotic comes from the Latin word pro, which means for, and the Greek word biotic, which means life. In a pickle about how to get more probiotics into your diet (see what we did there)? Worry not with these easy, everyday solutions.
Eat cultured foods and beverage
As their name states, cultured foods are chockfull of live active cultures that give your gut’s microbiome a natural boost. The magic happens through a process known as fermentation, a chemical breakdown of substances by way of bacteria and yeast. Cultured foods offer unique smells and flavors, and the fermenting process ups their nutritious value to superfood status. And the list of fermented foods and beverages extends well beyond beer, cider, aged cheeses, sourdough bread and yogurt. The next time you are at the grocery store, put a few of these creative options in your cart:
- Kefir, a fermented milk (think: drinkable yogurt) that’s full of calcium and probiotics. Kefir is easier to digest than lactose, too.
- Kimchi, a spicy Asian sauerkraut that’s delish on its own or mixed into soup, salads, rice or noodles.
- Kombucha, a tangy effervescent tea that’s rich in healthy yeast, bacteria and B vitamins. It cross-trains as a tasty drink, salad dressing or marinade, too.
- Miso, a fermented paste made by inoculating soybeans, barley or rice with a mold called koji. A traditional Japanese seasoning, miso infuses a bold, salty-savory taste.
- Sauerkraut, which is made from green or red fermented cabbage and dense in fiber and vitamins A, B, C and K. Not all sauerkraut is fermented, so read your labels.
- Tempeh, a soybean dish that resembles tofu but is firmer and has a slightly nuttier flavor. Tempeh is a complete vegetarian protein because it packs all nine essential amino acids.
Pickle your palate
Fermentation is actually a form of pickling––yet not all pickles are fermented. Confused yet? Worry not, it’s easier than you think. Use these tips for foolproof fermenting:
- Start with fresh, clean veggies like cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, cucumbers, garlic, peppers, radishes and snap beans.
- Chop or slice into bite-sized pieces and place in a large bowl.
Add two tablespoons of non-iodized salt per quart of volume. Massage in salt for at least five minutes. For more flavor, add spices like chili powder, ginger and turmeric.
- Place veggies in glass canning jars and press with your fingers, leaving at least two inches between them and the top of the jar.
- Create an airtight seal by filling a plastic sandwich bag with cool water and stuffing it into the top of the jar. Put the jar on a plate, to catch any liquid that “burps” out during fermentation.
- Stir daily for the next five days, adding just enough filtered water to cover the veggies. Press down and replace the water-filled bag.
- On day six, taste the veggies. If they’re just the right, refrigerate to stop fermentation. If they’re not tangy-sour enough, ferment a few more days.