This is a great appetizer if you are hosting a gathering or need to bring something to a pot-luck. They’re flavorful, nutrient packed, and visually appealing. I haven’t had Sauerkraut in ages, but when I discovered that Sauerkraut is filled with probiotics I was excited to find a new way to eat it that didn’t involve a hot dog.
Word has been spreading for a while about the importance of our micro-biome and its connection to overall health. The gastrointestinal track contains 10 to 100 trillion microorganisms. There is 10 times more bacteria in you GI track than there are cells that make up your whole body. It has been estimated that 70-80% of your immune system is in your gut. I know, jaw dropping. You can see why they play an instrumental role in health.
Dysbiosis, the imbalance of gut flora caused by not enough beneficial bacteria and overgrowth of harmful bacteria has been linked to multiple health conditions. Some conditions include, diabetes, obesity, irritable bowel syndrome and irritable bowel disease, diabetes, cancer, and mood and neurological disorders. Your microbiome is one of the environmental factors that has the ability to turn your genes of and on, depending on the bacteria that is present. (1) (2)
So there are lots of ways to ensure you have a thriving gut microbiome. The goal is to have the beneficial microbes outnumber the potentially harmful microbes, and maintain homeostasis. One way to ensure that you are developing and maintaining a healthy gut, is by consuming probiotic foods. Probiotics are found in fermented foods and drinks. This includes fermented vegetables like kimchi, sauerkraut, etc., kefir, yogurt, kombucha, natto, and tempeh. (3) Pretty much any vegetable can be fermented! Note that fermented foods and pickled foods are not the same, although they yield a similar taste. Fermented foods contain live cultures, or beneficial bacteria.
On top of adding healthy bacteria to your gut microbiome, fermented foods also host additional benefits. Fermented foods help regulate your stomach acid which assist in digesting food and keeping harmful bacteria from surviving. Fermented foods also help the body produce the neurotransmitter acetylcholine that promotes gut motility aiding in constipation. It can also be beneficial for people with diabetes because the fermentation process breaks down the carbohydrates and alleviates the pancreas from having to do all the work. (4)
Here are some tips when buying fermented foods:
- Look for labels that say fermented on them. A lot of these products will state it on the package.
- They are typically found in the refrigerator sections. The live cultures found in fermented food need to be kept cool to survive. Keep that in mind when storing and eating them as well.
- Look to see if the food was pasteurized. Pasteurization kills the beneficial bacteria.
- If you are eating dairy make sure to choose from organic grass fed sources. For your health, the health of the animal and the environment.
- Foods like natto, miso, and tempeh are typically heavily processed and made from GMO soy. If this is a regular in your diet make sure to look for non-GMO organic options. (5)
Tips on introducing probiotic foods and drinks:
- Slowly introduce the fermented food of your choice in small amounts. Star with either 1/2 a cup of probiotic food or 2 oz. of probiotic liquid a day. Try this for a few days before increasing.
- Keep in mind that you may have some bloating, changes in bowel habits, skin eruptions, and/or headache. This is usually a result of the bad bacteria in your gut “dying off.” Reduce your intake and give your body some time to get rid of the toxic byproducts.
- As your body adjust you can increase to 1/2 cup of probiotic food and 2 oz. of probiotic liquid per meal or in between meals.
- Rotate different probiotic foods and drinks to get a variety of nutrients and beneficial types of bacteria. (6)
If you find that over time your body is not adjusting to the fermented foods it may not be for you. Some people with IBS, which is likely a result of SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth), may find that it aggravates their symptoms. Also, some people with autoimmune conditions may find it triggers symptoms as well. If you do have any of these conditions you may want to work closely with a Functional Medical Doctor to help you find what is right for you.
Here’s some inspiration for a recipe filled with probiotics.
- Fermented Sauerkraut
- 1 roasted beet
- 1 can of chickpeas
- 1/4 teaspoon of sea-salt
- 1/4 teaspoon of pepper
- 2 tablespoons of Tahini Sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon of cumin (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon of paprika (optional)
- 4 tablespoons of lemon
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1/4 cup of olive-oil
- Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Rinse the beet, cover with oil and wrap in foil. Place it in the oven to cook for about 40 minutes or until soft when pierced with a fork.
- While the beet is cooking, rinse the chickpeas and add them to the food processor.
- Add the garlic, salt, pepper, lemon, tahini, cumin, and paprika to the food processor. Wait to add the oil.
- While the beet is still cooking you can cut and rinse the endives.
- When the beet is ready, let it cool and peel the skin off. Cut it into cubes and add it to the food processor.
- Pulse the food processor a few times then slowly add the olive oil while the food processor is going.
- Scoop about a tablespoon of hummus into the endive leaf and top with Sauerkraut.
This blog provides general information and discussion about medicine, health and related subjects. The words and other content provided in this blog, and in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If the reader or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately-licensed physician or other health care workers.