The organisms (e.g., bacteria, yeast, fungi, viruses, etc.) that coexist as part of our microbiome (e.g., on our skin, in our mouth and lower intestine) outnumber our body cells 10 to 1. Needless to say, this redefines the concept of taking care of oneself! This is the reason for all of the hype about fermented foods because they contain probiotics (a name that means ‘for life’). Rather than harmful germs, probiotics in our food may be good for our microbiome and:
- Aid in digestion of food and absorption of nutrients
- Support immune function
- Keep ‘bad’ bacteria in check
- Restore the good bacteria after antibiotics use
- Help in intestinal diseases, such as, irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis
Foods containing probiotics are thought to be safe for almost everyone and you receive the benefit of the nutrients in the food along with the probiotics. Individuals with serious health conditions or immune compromise should consult their doctor before beginning a probiotic. Some probiotic containing foods are:
- Skyr (similar to yogurt)
- Kefir (fermented milk)
- Kombucha (fermented tea)
- Sauerkraut (fermented cabbage)
- Kimchi (fermented vegetables)
- Pickled vegetables
- Tempeh (fermented soy)
- Miso paste
- Some newer probiotic products also include granola bars, cereal, and cottage cheese, but they must say that they contain a ‘live culture’
(Photo credit: Lauren Manning)
Heating probiotic foods will kill the organisms that they contain, so these need to be consumed cold. Also, shelf stable (aka, canned or packaged) sauerkraut, kimchi, pickled vegetables, miso, etc. do not contain probiotics because the organisms were killed in the canning and packaging process.
Study of the microbiome is in its infancy, but some indications are that these organisms play a role in our health. A daily probiotic food appears to be one safe way to add organisms to our microbiome and support our nutritional health.
Happy and healthful eating,
Donna G. Pertel, MEd, RD, LDN
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