Have you ever seen the hit show, Monsters Inside Me? It’s one of those shows that you hate to watch but can’t seem to look away. Person after person tell their horrifying stories of odd bacterial infections amongst other things. When people think of bacteria they usually get a little squeamish. We are constantly taking precautions to avoid bacteria that we probably don’t even think about. We wash our hands after using the bathroom, wipe down our kitchen counters, and avoid raw meat. It hasn’t been until recently that “good” bacteria have been making their debut. Healthy bacteria-laden foods have been a top 2017 trend and will most likely be a top trend of 2018 as well. Unlike bad bacteria, they deserve a little attention! Sound gross? Surprise! If you are a yogurt-lover, you have already joined the good bacteria bandwagon. Ready to branch out and try some new buggy food items? We’ve got ‘em for you here.
Kefir – Kefir is a fermented drink made from milk. The fermentation process is completed by using kefir grains – named after a polysaccharide matrix called kefiran – to produce a thickened milky product with a similar consistency of yogurt. Kefir is consumed all over the world and is thought to be beneficial to health, similar to many other probiotic food items. It has been associated with antibacterial and antifungal properties.1 This drink comes in many different flavors and is a great introduction to fermented foods.
Kombucha – You may already be aware of this popular drink that is finding its way into grocery store shelves next to more commonly known beverages. Not only can you find kombucha in stores, but it can also be made at home using a careful method. Kombucha is popular for its fizzy taste and also appeals to tea-lovers. It is said that this probiotic drink dates back to 220 B.C. Food Source Information from Colorado State University states, “The health benefits of kombucha still need more research, but animal studies show it has bioactive components that display antioxidant, detoxifying and antimicrobial properties that may contribute to claims that kombucha plays a role in overall immune health, mental health, and cancer and cardiovascular disease prevention.”2
Sauerkraut – Sauerkraut is an old form of cabbage preservation. It has traces as far back as the 4th century B.C. This fermented food contains lactic acid, vitamins A, B, C, and K, as well as minerals. Even Hippocrates wrote about sauerkraut describing it as a health food and a medicinal remedy.3 Unlike kombucha, making sauerkraut doesn’t require a starter culture. The lactic acid bacteria it contains has shown to have numerous health benefits. Lactic acid bacteria may improve diarrhea, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, some infections, and immune function.4 More research is needed to determine exactly how much lactic acid bacteria is in sauerkraut to improve health, but nonetheless, sauerkraut is full of beneficial dietary macro and micro nutrients.
Miso – Fermented soy bean paste, also called miso, is a commonly used in Japan. It is a mixture of soybeans with rice, and wheat or oats. Used as bouillon and meat stocks, this pro-bacteria food has been associated with reducing fatigue, improving digestion, decreasing cholesterol, decreasing blood pressure, and protecting against gastric ulcers.5 In addition, miso has also been associated with protection against radiation. This was first noted in 1945 by Dr. Akizuki when he and 20 other workers were nearby during an atomic bomb attack in Nagasaki. Dr. Akizuki noticed that he and the other workers did not suffer from radiation disease. Although cause doesn’t equal correlation, Akizuki attributed his protection to daily consumption of wakame miso soup. Because of this, many Europeans consumed miso soup as an attempt to prevent damage from the Chernobyl meltdown. Akizuki is considered one of the first to praise miso for its health benefits.5
Incorporating healthy bacteria into your diet is a great way to support your gut health. Eating new and unique foods is always a challenge. Keep an open mind…and just don’t think about the little, moving, microscopic creatures you are about to eat.
- Lopitz-otsoa F, Rementeria A, Elguezabal N, Garaizar J. Kefir: a symbiotic yeasts-bacteria community with alleged healthy capabilities. Rev Iberoam Micol. 2006;23(2):67-74.
- Underthun K, Dekevich D. Kombucha. Colorado State University. http://fsi.colostate.edu/kombucha/. Accessed January 4th, 2018.
- Raak C, Ostermann T, Boehm K, Molsberger F. Regular Consumption of Sauerkraut and Its Effect on Human Health: A Bibliometric Analysis. Global Advances in Health and Medicine. 2014;3(6):12-18. doi:10.7453/gahmj.2014.038.
- II RO, Corbin A, Scott B. Sauerkraut: A Probiotic Superfood. Functional Foods in Health and Disease. 2016;6:536-543.
- WATANABE H. Beneficial Biological Effects of Miso with Reference to Radiation Injury, Cancer and Hypertension. Journal of Toxicologic Pathology. 2013;26:91-103.
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This information is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional or any information contained on or in any product label or packaging. Do not use the information from this article for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing medication or other treatment. Always speak with your physician or other healthcare professional before taking any medication or nutritional, herbal or homeopathic supplement, or using any treatment for a health problem. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your health care provider promptly. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking professional advice because of something you have read in this article.