I received two emails in the past few months from busy families that really want the health benefits of probiotic foods but didn’t have the time to make homemade ferments. They both really wanted to know how they could get the most out of the probiotics that you could buy in the store.
The first was a family with 4 young boys who had gone through a bout of heavy antibiotics. The other family had a newborn and an asthmatic toddler who was chronically sick. Both of these families were so busy staying on top of regular cooking/cleaning/laundry that they didn’t have time to make homemade fermented foods.
I sent them both personalized emails with ideas about ways they could rebuild their families’ microbiomes with store-bought probiotics. After the second email, I realized that I clearly needed to write a blog on the topic!
Want to know how you can get the most out of probiotics?
1. Probiotic Supplements
Probably the easiest way to get more probiotics into your diet is to buy probiotic supplements. The only problem with probiotic supplements is that there is huge variability in effectiveness.
Regardless of the brand, never buy a probiotic supplement that hasn’t been refrigerated, as the shelf-life of probiotics rapidly decreases at room temperature. And definitely skip the pack of probiotic chewing gum or probiotic potato chips if you are looking for an effective supplement.
2. Buying Probiotic Food
It’s surprisingly easy to find probiotic food in the average supermarket (though maybe that’s because I live on a very granola-y Island).
Yogurt is probably the easiest off-the-shelf probiotic. If you’re looking to improve your microbiome, then buy plain yogurt and add in the fruit at home. Flavoured yogurt is less likely to be teeming with lactic bacteria because they’ll consume the sugars in the flavours.
There are a number of other probiotic dairy foods that are easy to find in the grocery store. Buttermilk, sour cream and fresh cheeses are all made with bacterial cultures. Just read the labels to make sure that they have actually been cultured. Bacterial cultures will be on the list of ingredients.
You can also look for fermented pickles, sauerkraut and miso in the refrigerated section of your grocery store.
To get the benefits from these probiotic foods, eat them raw, and preferably with a source of dairy.
3. Easy Homemade Ferments
Even if you don’t have a lot of time, I still recommend making fermented foods. You will get the most probiotic benefits from making fermented foods in your own home. Our digestive system is pretty darn harsh, and most probiotics get their butts kicked by stomach acid. However, bacteria still manages to live on every surface of our bodies.
Fermenting in your home creates a healthy and probiotic flora within the air of your home. The bacteria and yeasts from your ferments will populate your indoor air. So you will get probiotics on your skin and in the air that you breathe.
This means unhealthy air in a home can make it hard to ferment in the beginning. But regularly fermenting at home will quickly change the indoor air quality.
If you are unsure about making fermented foods, then I recommend starting with sauerkraut. Organic cabbage comes with its own vigorous culture so it’s easy for beginners. I also recommend making fermented vegetable sticks, since they are just as easy.