5 Simple Ways To Eat More Probiotics

by | Aug 4, 2014

Photo by adactio

Although it isn’t particularly glamorous, gut health has become something of a hot topic among scientists and doctors interested in health and nutrition. Specifically we are realizing that it isn’t just our own health and happiness that we need to be concerned with.

Our digestive tract is home to about 100 trillion microrganisms, mostly bacteria, which makes them more numerous than our own human cells in our body. When the environment they live in is favorable (i.e. when our diet is good and our gut is healthy) these bacteria function symbiotically to help us digest our food, protect us from more dangerous bacteria, help our immune system, extract additional nutrients from our foods, and more.

The best way we know to build and maintain gut health is through the foods that we eat. Foods like garlic, onions and asparagus, contain what are known as prebiotics, nutrients that promote the growth and activity of our gut flora. Other foods contain probiotics, or live bacterial cultures that can help repopulate the gut with a more favorable ratio of specific bacteria.

Probiotics are formed by fermentation, and all known traditional cuisines incorporate some type of fermented food. The Western diet is notably devoid of traditionally fermented foods (not to mention our prolific use of antibiotics) and as a result our gut health––and therefore our overall health––has declined.

Incorporating more fermented foods into your healthstyle is an excellent habit to cultivate, and may help improve symptoms such as lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), low immunity and nutrient deficiencies. They are also super yummy.

Eating foods containing probiotics can be difficult to remember if you aren’t in the habit, which is why I include it in my Lift habits. Below are a few simple and delicious ways to get more probiotics in your life.

5 Simple Ways To Eat More Probiotics

1. Kimchi with eggs

Kimchi, the spicy fermented cabbage dish popular in Korea, is my absolute favorite way to eat probiotics. Its strong flavor can make it somewhat intimidating to noobies, but I think the mild taste of scrambled eggs makes the perfect compliment. This meal alone ensures I get some probiotics at least 2-3 times a week with either breakfast or lunch.

Making your own kimchi isn’t that difficult, but it does take some time (I recommend Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz if you’re interested in fermenting your own food). Alternatively you can find it in most grocery stores. If you decide to purchase your kimchi make sure you get one containing live cultures (read the package to be sure), which means it will likely be in the refrigerated section of the store.

2. Yogurt as a snack

Yogurt is the most common food that contains probiotics, but that doesn’t make it a bad choice. There are several different healthful strains of bacteria, and the kind in yogurt is different from the kind in fermented vegetables, so it is good to have both.

I find that plain yogurt (don’t bother with the sickly sweet “fruit” kinds from the big industrial brands) with a sprinkle of fresh fruit or muesli makes a wonderful and satisfying midday snack.

3. Miso paste in salad dressing

Japanese miso paste is a form of fermented soy that is absolutely delicious. To get the beneficial probiotics from miso, however, you cannot boil the miso (as is usually the case with miso soup), because the heat kill all the bacteria.

Fortunately, miso paste makes a wonderful emulsifier in salad dressing. I add a tablespoon of miso paste and a splash of rice vinegar to olive oil, along with salt, pepper, fresh chives and some grated ginger to make a nutritious and delicious dressing.

4. Sauerkraut with meats

Like kimchi, sauerkraut is made from fermented cabbage and is totally underrated as a healthy condiment. It’s tang and crunch make it an ideal pairing with fatty meats like pork.

Just as with kimchi, you need to be sure that the sauerkraut you buy still contains live cultures and isn’t just marinated in vinegar, so read the package carefully and be suspicious of anything outside the refrigerator section of your grocery store.

5. Kombucha for refreshment

Kombucha is a fermented tea that contains live probiotics. It has become popular lately, so can be found at most grocery stores. Although it does contain some residual sugar (the bacteria ferment the sugar to create the characteristic tang of the drink), it is a nice alternative to soda as a refreshment on a hot day.

How do you get your probiotics?

Originally published June 24, 2013.

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27 Responses to “5 Simple Ways To Eat More Probiotics”

  1. AJ says:

    Thanks for this post…and for telling us about Lift! I love this concept and I just created an account because of you. =]

  2. Kelly says:

    May I ask how much kimchi you typically eat with your eggs at breakfast or lunch? I’ve never eaten it, but would like to give it a try, and am uncertain what constitutes a beneficial amount.

  3. Joe Garma says:

    Am glad you’re on top of this pro/prebiotic topic, Dara.

    I wrote a post on this (“How To Feed 100 Trillion Guests”), and when doing the research learned the term “Synbiotics”, which refers to nutritional supplements (or food) containing both pro and prebiotics.

    What I learned was the importance of ingesting both, not just the probiotics that are most discussed.

    Sounds crazy, but some new research suggests that the microbiota in our guts can not only affect our health, but how we think.

    Think I’ll go eat some sauerkraut.



  4. I’m all over the probiotics after my horrible UTI last December. Learned a new one from you about the miso being an emulsifier. I always make my own dressing so that’s a no brainer.

    For getting regular doses of the good bugs, I’ve found the Kombucha drinks wonderful–Synergy is my fav brand. I drink about a third of a bottle each day.

  5. Sue Wachtel says:

    I eat homemade yogurt everyday. It’s so easy to make and my kids love it too. I tried a pack of kimchi from Trader Joes, and I usually love all kinds of foods, but this I just did not enjoy. I will have to try it again with eggs, since you think that would help with the taste.

  6. Alexandra says:

    Hi Darya,
    I wanted to share a sauerkraut salad recipe that is really nice. It is a very typical Eastern European recipe, just sauerkraut, shredded carrots, finely chopped onion, a little black pepper and olive oil and that’s it. It is amazingly yummy, great with meats.
    Thanks for the info, I will certainly be trying some kimchi in the near future.

  7. Karen says:

    I brew kombucha but don’t drink it as often as I should (I’m used to just drinking water). I culture buttermilk and yogurt (matsoni, which doesn’t taste good to me plain but works well in recipes). I use the buttermilk make probiotic ranch dressing, creme fraiche and smoothies. I use the yogurt as a sour cream substitute and in smoothies so that I can’t taste it. I’d like to try a different yogurt culture but I’m not sure which one to get. I’m used to the thick, plain store-bought kind.

  8. Jacob says:

    I love kimchi! I made a huge batch a few months ago and I’m slowly devouring it. It was super fun to make.

  9. Richard says:

    Mmmm, I still feel uneasy about Kombucha. Paul Stamets (respected mycologist) wrote an article about it back in the 90s:
    I don’t know if there are any reputable studies since that point (it was a while ago) so I mentally put it in the raw milk category.

  10. Marina says:

    I love fermented foods, especially fermented mushrooms and cabbage. When you eat organic, preferably self grown veggies and fruits, sprouted seeds, beans, grains, and nuts, you don’t really need much else. In fact fermented foods should be eaten with precaution, because too much bacteria can cause bad bacteria overgrowth and result in candida. Kombucha tea, for example should not be taken every day or for long periods.

  11. Josh Brancek says:

    Darya, thanks a lot for these tips. I hope they will help me beat damage done from antibiotics!!!

  12. Sally says:

    I take the commercially produced probiotic drinks for my daily dose of probiotics. I will try to include these foods in my daily meals.

  13. Brittany says:

    From kefir, mainly.

  14. Dee says:

    Thanks Darya, very good article. It’s time for me to diversify 🙂

  15. Jill says:

    Don’t forget you can make your own probiotic foods! 🙂

  16. Kate says:

    Darya, I get a bit confused about what happens to probiotic foods when you cook them. You mention here not boiling miso, for instance. For a while I was having a kimchi & veggie fried brown rice dish for dinner about once a week and really enjoying it, then read that you lose the probiotics if you cook them. Any light you can shed would be helpful.

    • Darya Rose says:

      Hi Kate,

      What’s important to keep in mind is that the benefit of probiotic foods is that they contain live bacteria. If the bacteria die due to heat exposure, you don’t get the same benefit. Some heating won’t necessarily kill everything, but high heat will kill most of the live cultures. Make sense?

      • Kate says:

        Thanks, Darya, that helps. Perhaps I’ll just make a veggie brown rice dish and add kimchi at the end without cooking it! Or have it on the side….

      • Douglas says:

        For the record, in traditional miso soup, the japanese add the miso at the very last minute and it is never boiled.

  17. Mariah Cole says:

    Frankly speaking I really don’t like cabbage I just can even stand the aroma of it. However I like your idea of having it along with an egg I do love egg and I keep on experimenting with it by trying it in different ways. I would definitely give it a try.

    I have just started having Kombucha for my daily refreshment.I have reduced my coffee intake which has been replaced by this I know the two are different but I can manage without a coffee. Green tea is not an option for me since I am trying to conceive.Thumbs up for your post keep sharing such write ups with us I am big fan of such posts.

  18. Meredith says:

    Hi, stumbled across this article! I’m trying to increase my intake of probiotics. Just got into kimchi. Question though – if I heat the kimchi, even a little bit, does it destroy all the good bacteria? I was just reading this recipe for Kimchi fried rice with fried egg on top, and says to heat the Kimchi for a few mins in a pan. Should I skip this step in order to preserve the contents?

  19. Lora Downie says:

    Is there any studies that weigh the probiotic content of each of these listed and their proven benefits (skeptical mostly of kombucha)? Thanks!

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