A warming bowl of Miso Soup with Garlic and Ginger served with a hearty sandwich of raw milk cheese or sliced marinated tempeh with kimchi on whole grain sourdough bread is more than delicious and satisfying. It’s a probiotic-packed meal that supports a healthy digestive system, which in turn supports a well-functioning immune system.
Did you know the majority of our immune system is located in our gut? If your digestive health isn’t up to par, it can mean your immune system could use a boost as well. That’s where probiotics come in. With many of our foods being pasteurized, we’ve eliminated some very important sources of living enzymes and cultures that were once eaten on a regular basis. Unfortunately, that can have unhealthy consequences since a well-functioning digestive tract is dependent upon an abundance of friendly bacteria that help maintain balance. However, foods like Lentil Curry with Cashews and Yogurt and Tofu Reuben with Russian Dressing piled high with raw sauerkraut are modern favorites made with traditional foods.
Live, cultured and fermented foods are natural sources of probiotics. Look for this on the label and aim to eat a variety in order to get different strains of beneficial bacteria. Here’s a sampling of probiotic foods, many of which must be kept refrigerated:
- Live-cultured pickles, sauerkraut, kimchee, salsa and other vegetables
- Unpasteurized miso
- Raw milk cheese, yogurt with live cultures and kefir, a popular cultured dairy drink
- Assorted probiotic beverages such as kombucha tea
Remember, cooking and pasteurization can easily destroy enzymes and probiotics. This doesn’t mean the food is no longer nutritious. However, to get the benefits of live cultures and enzymes, food must be gently heated or eaten raw. Here are some ideas you may want to try:
- Incorporate kefir and yogurt into your meals often. Make smoothies like our gorgeous Sunrise Breakfast Smoothie, or enjoy fruit salads, hot cooked cereals and more, topped with fresh yogurt or kefir.
- Purchase live-cultured salsa for tacos, nachos, burritos, beans and rice, or to stir into guacamole. Or, try fresh salsa on baked potatoes or as a garnish for a favorite chili recipe. Tofu and Black Bean Tacos are super delicious with grated raw milk Jack or cheddar cheese and fresh, live-cultured salsa.
- Swap in fresh, unpasteurized miso for salt in salad dressing recipes. When making miso soup, remember to remove soup from the heat before adding miso to prevent boiling and killing the living enzymes.
- Make a probiotic salad dressing. Whisk together 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil with 1/3 cup raw apple cider vinegar, a minced clove of garlic, a small minced shallot and a teaspoon or two of unpasteurized miso. If desired, add a little raw honey and a teaspoon of prepared mustard along with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Drink probiotic-packed fermented beverages, if desired.