Our body requires many things to thrive in optimal health. We are all familiar with the importance of engaging in regular exercise, getting a good night’s sleep, and the value of drinking lots of water. Did you know that it is also important to do what we can to ensure our bodies are shielded against infections and diseases inside our digestive tract?
Our bodies are filled with bacteria. It may sound dangerous, but the truth is there is good and bad bacteria inside everyone. Some bacteria can make us sick, but other bacterium serves an important role in keeping our gut healthy and our bodies well. The combination of good and bad bacteria is called flora.
At any given time, your body is filled with probiotics which are healthy flora that is thriving in your gut, making it possible to do things like reduce gas and bloating, fight off yeast overgrowth and wage war against unhealthy bacteria trying to infect your body.
When you are sick or stressed, the good probiotics can die off quickly and make it harder to have harmony in your gut. Thankfully, one of the best ways to protect our gut while promoting good nutrition is through the consumption of cultured foods. What are cultured foods? These are foods that have been fermented, which break down to easily digestible components and preserve a healthy balance of flora.
No matter what your personal preferences are for food, chances are there is a cultured food that you will love. Consuming cultured foods can aid in treating illness such as candida overgrowth, and can counteract the effects of taking certain medications, like antibiotics, that are known to kill the flora in your gut.
Increasing your gut health can be as simple as finding and consuming cultured foods that you love.
Samples Of Cultured Foods:
- Sauerkraut, pickles and other cultured veggies
Let’s examine the benefits of Kefir, Kombucha and Sauerkraut
Unless you are an avid foodie, you may not be familiar with kefir. What is kefir? How do you eat it and why would you? These are common questions that many people have. The valuable information about this amazing fermented food source is important and can lead to a new food option for your family.
Kefir is a cultured and fermented beverage that is oftentimes lumped together with yogurt. While kefir and yogurt do share some similarities, they are actually very different. Yogurt is thick and contains lactose if made with animal milk. Kefir is drinkable and contains more fat and more protein than yogurt but because of the way it is made, people who are lactose intolerant can usually consume kefir.
For gut health, kefir is superior to yogurt because it is made with more good bacteria and is made with yeast which increases the nutritional benefits. Kefir may also decrease the effects of asthma and allergies. Kefir can regulate your digestion and help rebound after a round of antibiotics.
Kefir is most commonly made from milk, which includes dairy milk as well as non-dairy sources such as coconut or rice milk. Kefir is also made from water which produces an entirely different taste. Water kefir is made from sugar water, fruit juice or coconut water. Both types of kefir require a “starter” similar to the starter used in making sourdough.
Both dairy and water kefir can be infused with flavoring to accommodate your personal taste. The options are as varied as your imagination and personal taste. Here are some great ways to flavor or repurpose kefir:
- Add fresh or frozen fruit to infuse flavor
- Flavor extracts to spice up your kefir
- Natural sweeteners such as honey or maple syrup
- Add fresh or frozen fruit to infuse flavor
- Flavor extracts work here as well
- Add fresh herbs such as mint, basil or rosemary
- Fresh vegetables such as cucumber can add another source of flavor
Kefir is a unique and wonderful dietary option to boost gut health, create healthy bones, and boost your digestive systems. Whether you make it at home, enjoy it at a local juice bar, or pick some up at the grocery store, you can’t go wrong making this valuable drink part of your healthy living routine.
Not that long ago, kombucha was a little-known drink ( that is in most Western countries). Nowadays it is very common and easy to find in grocery and convenience stores. Kombucha is fermented tea mixed with sugar and bacteria; the good kind. The beverage smells a bit like vinegar and the taste varies depending on what infusions are added.
Dating back a few thousand years, kombucha was used as an anti-inflammatory and prevention for many diseases including cancer. Today the greatest push to consume the beverage is improving digestive health and increasing energy.
Making kombucha requires a starter usually called the Mother Culture or Scoby. This is a required element to make the beverage. This is combined with tea and sits for roughly ten days developing a thin colony of bacteria. This culture is removed when fermentation is complete and can be re-used to make new batches of tea.
Kombucha is very trendy right now and easily accessible in restaurants and local food stores, but some people love making their own Kombucha. Let’s look at the benefits of making your own kombucha or simply grabbing some at the store.
Homemade Kombucha- Making your own kombucha isn’t hard, but it does have a learning curve. It does require an initial investment of money and time. Over time, it is cheaper to make your own and you can control the flavor and quality fairly easily. It is more convenient to make your own kombucha once you are on a roll. You won’t have to stop at the store to pick up a new supply. If you love the beverage, it may be best to make a home brew.
Store-Bought Kombucha- Store-bought kombucha is easy to access and ready to go without any waiting. It can be pricey bought by the bottle and if you want it at an inconvenient time, you may have to go out of your way to get some. There is essentially no difference in quality or taste once you find a brand you love. Due to its popularity, it is readily available!
Kombucha is another wonderful gut-friendly option for your optimal health. The tangy, fizzy, sort-of-smelly tea is popular and if you make it yourself the variations for flavoring are endless. Here are some ideas for adding flavor to your kombucha:
- Fresh pressed vegetable juices
Herbs & Spices:
- Rose Hips
As you can see the options are limitless and you can mix and match options to create wonderful concoctions of kombucha.
If you are new to consuming kombucha , spend time sampling store-bought and juice bar favorites to give yourself time to develop a taste and appreciation for the beverage. Check online for recipes or tips and tricks for brewing your own and then let your imagination run wild.
Long before Americans were adding pickled cucumber relish to hotdogs as condiments, fermented vegetables were well established as an excellent dietary options for thousands of years. Fermenting vegetables is one of the oldest forms of food preservation in our history and the benefits to our bodies are undeniable.
Sauerkraut is made from thinly sliced cabbage fermented with lactobacillus bacteria. The sugars in the cabbage convert into lactic acid and preserve the vegetable. The name is derived from the German language and translates to sour cabbage.
The benefits of sauerkraut and other fermented vegetables are not only gut health, which is due to the fermentation and bacteria. Vegetables also offer vitamins and fiber. Caution- fermented veggies can be higher in salt so care should be taken to limit your portions to recommended amounts.
Hot dogs and sandwiches aside, there are many ways to include fermented veggies into your diet. The key is to find veggies you love and switch them up so you don’t get bored. Fermenting vegetables is one of the oldest forms of food preservation so there are unlimited options for what you can create.
Here Are Some Recommended Fermented Veggies To Try:
- Red or green cabbage
- Green Beans
- Garlic or other herbs and spices
Get Creative With Your Choices! Fun Ways to Eat Fermented Veggies:
- Create a salad or slaw by adding fresh vegetables with fermented vegetables.
- Bake chicken with fermented peppers, garlic, and olives.
- Roll fermented veggies up in a wrap with your favorite lunch meat.
- Mix fermented herbs with sour cream or yogurt and serve with crackers.
- Spoon some fermented garlic over baked sweet potatoes and melted butter.
- Finely chop fermented veggies and add fresh herbs to make a salsa.
Having multiple opportunities to improve your health through food is never a bad choice. Whether you enjoy eating regular or fermented vegetables, you can’t go wrong. Fermented vegetables simply have added properties due to the bacteria they produce. Enjoy making your gut and your taste buds happy the next time you add sauerkraut or other vegetables to your plate.
In concluding, discovering the benefits of keeping our gut healthy is the first step towards optimal health. Learning what foods promote good gut health makes it easier to incorporate great-tasting foods that fight disease into our diets. Once you find the foods you love you can expect to see a dramatic increase in your energy, health, and happiness.