Fermented Fare: Digestion-Friendly Probiotic Foods
Nutrient-dense probiotics—from yogurt to raw vegetables to beet juice—can aid digestion, strengthen your immune system and cut down on inflammation.
Growing up a baby boomer in suburban America, I had little exposure to fermented foods. Earlier generations fermented and preserved foods but many post-World War II families sought out new convenience products. Few were interested in taking the time to make their own yogurt or sauerkraut.
Today, probiotic-rich fermented foods are known to aid digestion, bolster immunity and reduce inflammation. Probiotics are beneficial live bacteria that help maintain healthy bacterial balance in the digestive system. A diet heavy in processed foods and a lifestyle that includes illness, antibiotics, food allergies and intolerances can disrupt this balance. Fortunately, this is correctable with simple dietary changes.
Probiotic-rich foods are part of a nutrient-dense diet that the entire family can enjoy. These foods include yogurt, fermented raw vegetables (sauerkraut, kimchi) and fermented beverages (water kefir, kombucha, beet kvass). They must be raw, unheated and unpasteurized since probiotics are killed by heat.
As a chef (not a medical clinician), I want to have the benefits and enjoy good taste. Eaten alone, some probiotic foods may be an acquired taste but mixing small amounts into everyday foods provides the benefit without a total change in how you eat.
Ketchup was once a fermented food whose benefits vanished with large-scale manufacturing processes and the addition of high fructose corn sweeteners. Avoid these problems by purchasing ketchup sweetened with fruit juice or agave (not corn sugars) and adding a probiotic culture at home: Place 1 tablespoon of raw sauerkraut juice in ½ cup of prepared ketchup and mix well. The taste isn’t noticeably altered.
Raw sauerkraut juice can be added to salsas and other unheated sauces and salad dressings for beneficial probiotic properties. If you’re concerned about flavor, start with 1 teaspoon of juice and gradually work up to more.
This recipe provides probiotic-rich goodness that tastes great.
Vinaigrette Salad Dressing
MAKES 1½ CUPS
Homemade dressings are easy, less expensive and free of unnecessary ingredients. Vary seasonings to suit your palate.
¼ cup balsamic or apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons raw sauerkraut juice or kombucha
½ teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
¼ teaspoon honey
1 small shallot (or 1-2 garlic cloves), finely minced
1 cup olive oil
½ teaspoon dried oregano, basil or herbes de Provence
Salt and pepper, to taste
1. Whisk vinegar, sauerkraut juice, mustard, honey and shallot together. In a slow stream, blend in olive oil to create an emulsion. Add herb of choice, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Each tablespoon contains 81 calories, 9g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 6mg sodium, 0g carbohydrate, 0g fiber, 0g protein.
Food coach and nutritional expert Sueson Vess is author of Special Eats Gluten and Dairy-Free Cooking. She splits her time between the Chicago area and the North Carolina sandhills.