Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Fresh start: probiotics

Probiotic Viili
Probiotics is the catchall phrase for foods and beverages which contain beneficial bacteria which support health and the immune system. Not all bacteria is pathological and some is critical for proper health, for example, without the vital vitamin K produced by gut bacteria we would not have the proper functioning of the blood clotting cascade reaction. Furthermore, a sterile gut without any bacteria in it, compromises the immune system as well as increases our risk for obesity (see HERE). Some examples of probiotic foods include lacto-fermented foods, yogurt and other fermented dairy, kombucha, water kefir, and lambic drinks. Heating these foods necessarily kills off the positive bacteria so these foods are best consumed warm or cold but not hot.

Sometimes of these foods require obtaining unusual cultures to add to foods and this can be an overwhelming thought when you are starting out. It can be much easier to start with foods that you can easily obtain or make in your own kitchen without special cultures or tools. Here are some good foods and drinks to start with:

These probiotic drinks are bubbly and a healthy alternative to sodas and easily made by harnessing probiotic bacteria from the air.

You can easily make homemade yogurt, without a maker, using fresh yogurt from the store as a starter. This method allows you to make as much as a gallon at a time. These can be drained using a colander lined with cheesecloth or a loosely woven dish towel with a bowl underneath to catch the whey which will drain off. You can use this whey to make lacto-fermented foods.

This is one of my husband's favorite foods! They are easily made and can be used in sandwiches and salads or with sliced cheese as an appetizer. The brief introductory post above can help you make lots of other foods using different vegetables like cabbage, cucumbers, and carrots. You can also add whey to homemade foods like hummus, guacamole, salsa, mayo, catsup and mustard to make a variety of healthy condiments which are not only health promoting but also preserve them for longer than under refrigeration alone.

Once you have branched out to these easier foods, you can many more foods to your repetoir. Try some of these recipes that require special starters:

This bubbly, highly probiotic drink is bubbly and tart and a little like apple cider vinegar but tastes great with the addition of fruit juices. Try a bottle or two at a store to start with and see how you like it. As your palate broadens, you may like it more overtime.

This bubbly drink is more mild than kombucha, also tastes great with juice, but has fewer probiotics than kombucha. If you are sensitive to dairy, you can use water kefir instead of whey for great success in lacto-fermented recipes.

  • Viili (and other fermented dairy)

Viilli is a room-temperature culturing yogurt and my tutorial explains how to use it and other similar cultures. Once you have this method down, you can use it to make soft cheeses like this one HERE. Dairy kefir is a delicious and bubbly yogurt like drink and requires soft rubbery probiotic colonies called grains which require careful tending. While the results are delicious and more bubbly than the powdered single use product, it can be a lot to maintain. I prefer using the single use powder.

What are your favorite probiotic foods and how are you getting them in your diet?

Linking up to Fat Tuesday and the Probiotic Challenge!


  1. is the difference between a lambic drink and water keifer just the cultures?

    Also, is there a way to increase the amount of probiotics rather than just wild yeasts in lambics?

  2. Thanks for linking your great post to FAT TUESDAY. This was very interesting! Great post! Hope to see you next week!

    Be sure to visit RealFoodForager.com on Sunday for Sunday Snippets – your post from Fat Tuesday may be featured there!

    Share your great fermented food recipes at my Probiotic Food Linky – open through Februray 6, 2012.

  3. This great post is featured at Sunday Snippets this week! Thanks for sharing! Come and check it out!


  4. This is really great to know! I actually keep hearing about probiotic drinks like Yakult Milk. It’s good to learn through research that probiotics do have positive benefits for children!


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