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Heal your gut with probiotic-rich foods

I was reluctant to go near sauerkraut until my friend and fermented foods nerd Andrea Potter convinced me that her recipe would help with my digestion issues.

Surprisingly, the raw purple cabbage mixture was just as Andrea described: crunchy, vibrant, tangy and a major digestion booster.

I’ve been hooked since, and Vancouver smart foodies are all over it too.

Sauerkraut’s magic happens when you mix it with a salt brine and then let it ferment for a few weeks to activate and strengthen friendly bacteria, also known as probiotics, which work miracles on healing your gut and digestive systems.

Why is your gut health so important?

Holistic nutritionist Shawna Barker says that 60-70 percent of your immune system lives in your gut, which is the center of your mental and physical health.

Your gut holds trillions of bacteria that help process your food, produce nutrients and fight disease.

These bacteria can be friendly or harmful depending on your lifestyle and food choices.

For example, Shawna indicates that medications, environmental toxins, processed foods and stress create more harmful bacteria in our bodies that lead to digestive and chronic health issues.

On the flip side, a healthy lifestyle focused on whole foods promotes more of the good bacteria that rebuild your gut and load up your mojo.

Too many of us, however, don’t lead balanced lifestyles so our gut health suffers and we become cranky.

If you’re having gut issues, take one step towards the healing process by eating more probiotic-rich foods and look into supplements as well.

Common sources of probiotic foods

Yogurt – this is the most well-known probiotic source in North America, however many store-bought dairy yogurts contain unhealthy sweeteners and additives. Some are even pasteurized after fermentation, which kills off any probiotic benefits. Local Almond Yoga yogurt is a great non-dairy alternative.

Raw sauerkraut (cabbage) – have this as a side dish, a snack with dips and crackers or add into your wraps. Look for unpasteurized brands kept in store fridges.

Raw kimchi (Korean-based food made with cabbage, vegetables and spices) – can be eaten the same way as sauerkraut or incorporated into soups and stocks. Look for unpasteurized brands stored in fridges.

Kefir (milk drink made from kefir grains)  – I understand that home-made kefir is best and can be used in place of buttermilk in recipes and in smoothies. Here’s an awesome site for more info on kefir.

Kombucha (tea-based drink) — this is an increasingly popular and revitalizing drink. Most of the recreational brands have only been fermented for a week or two. If you want the full benefits, get this mature certified organic fermented kombucha made by Botanica Health.

Take a class with Shawna Barker

Shawna-650x975Home made foods are best! Learn how to make your own sauerkraut and kombucha at Shawna Barker’s workshop on Sprouting, Fermenting and Kombucha at Golden Aura Organic Eatery.

May 14, 2013 | 7 – 9 pm | $35 or take all four workshops in the Live Food series for $120 (save $20).

When should you consider probiotic supplements?

According to Shawna, its important to take probiotic supplements if you have really weak digestion and/or if you’re on antibiotics or antacids which wipe out all the good bacteria from your system.

I  have recently experienced amazing results with Dr. Ohirra’s probiotic supplements recommended by Kris Carr. She also suggests Primal Defense, Healthforce Nutritionals (Friendly Force) and Megafood’s Megaflora.

Keen to read more?

Check out Sandor Katz, the guru of fermented foods.

Sources cited

Special thanks to Shawna Barker, holistic nutritionist and raw foods educator for the interview on fermented foods and probiotics.

How to improve your gut health

How to make sauerkraut


Sauerkraut: the cheapest, most delicious probiotic supplement available

Image credits

Feature image: Rooted Nutrition via Chris McLaughlin

Portrait image: Shawna Barker

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