These oddly named ingredients, that you might not have even heard of yet, pack a powerful (and delicious) punch.
While many of us have heard of today’s common superfoods – we're talking kale, cacao, acai, goji, matcha, maca, chia and quinoa to name a few – there are some other oddly named ingredients that you might not have heard of yet, that can be a delicious addition to your diet.
What sets these foods apart from others, however, is that they are super rich in probiotic health benefits. That is, they can help to support and strengthen the overall health of your gut – where over 70 per cent of your immune system lives – and helps ensure your body’s bacterial balance is in check.
Importantly, if you have an imbalance of bacteria in your gut, your body may not be able to release toxins as effectively from the body, or absorb proper nutrients, minerals and vitamins which are needed to strengthen your immunity. Furthermore, probiotic ingredients can not only help improve your immunity, but also your overall digestive health, mood and skin.
As you will notice, these ingredients are all fermented foods, as fermented foods tend to be the richest sources of probiotic ingredients. The process of fermentation uses a food’s sugars and starch to create lactic acid, which in turn helps break it down and make it easier to digest as well as last longer. The fermentation process is also believed to help boost certain food’s nutritional value which is also beneficial in supporting your health.
Dietician Belinda Reynolds fills us in on the probiotic rich ingredients to incorporate into your diet.
1. Kefir Milk
Kefir milk is a fermented drink and cultured dairy product made with kefir grains, and it is one of the most probiotic rich foods you can find containing several gut-healthy strains. Slightly sweet and a bit tangy, kefir (pronounced kee-fer) can be sold plain or flavoured and being a dairy product, is rich in calcium, meaning it promotes the health of your bones and teeth as well as your digestive system. Kefir is also high in phosphorus, an essential mineral found in the human body; needed also for bones, and to help our bodies use carbohydrates and proteins for cell growth and energy.
Kimchi is a traditional Korean dish, usually made up of fermented vegetables and a variety of seasonings. Low in fat and high in fibre, Kimchi is often made up of cabbage and radishes, mixed with salt, pepper, garlic, chilli and other spices. Kimchi contains the bacterium called lactobacillus kimchi as well as other lactic acid bacteria that are beneficial to our gastrointestinal as well as immune systems. The mix of healthy seasonings added to Kimchi assist with providing a wholesome meal or side dish, full of health benefits. For instance, Garlic, , which is high in allicin, can help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. The overall antioxidant benefits Kimchi provides can assist with inflammation in the body and therefore reduce oxidative stress.
Kombucha is a fermented tea drink, which you might have started to see more and more of in your local green grocer or café lately. While it has recently had a boom in popularity, the health benefits of Kombucha date back centuries, with the ancient Chinese often referring to this drink as an “Immortal Health Elixir”. Starting out as a sugary tea which is then fermented using a SCOBY (Symbolic Culture of bacteria and Yeast), Kombucha is a fizzy, slightly sour tasting, low in calories and sugar, gut healing beverage.
Sauerkraut is finely cut, and fermented cabbage. However, the health benefits of this probiotic rich food extends well beyond its bacteria balancing abilities. Cabbage, even in its raw form, is a great source of iron, for energy production in the body as well as fibre, for healthy digestive support, and Vitamins A and C, for healthy skin and strengthened immunity.
5. Miso Soup
Miso Soup is a fermented soy product that has been eaten (or drunk) in certain parts of Asia for centuries. Miso is made of soybeans and koji, a culture starter made from beneficial moulds, yeast and lactic acid bacteria. As well as providing beneficial bacteria and enzymes, miso is antiviral as well as very alkalising in the body, helping to strengthen the immune system and fight infection. Miso also contains linoleic acid which is an essential fatty acid that helps preserve and strengthen soft healthy skin.
6. Probiotic Supplements
If some of these surprising ingredients haven’t tickled your taste buds’ fancy, another great way to get a probiotic rich fix is with a super strength probiotic supplement. This can be especially important during or after any course of antibiotics or use of some other medications, as antibiotics can wreak havoc on your gut. Speak to a healthcare practitioner about the best probiotic for you, however generally a high-strength probiotic with a good mixture of different beneficial bacteria species is a good place to start.