We learned at a young age that “bacteria” was a scary word. Yet, times have changed and scientists continue to realize the importance of these tiny organisms. In fact, there is more bacteria in our gut then cells in our body. I don't know about you, but I find this incredible!
The internet has made it easy to find information, yet, sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish correct vs. incorrect claims about how bacteria can benefit our health. As of now, probiotics have been shown to be beneficial with irritable bowel issues like diarrhea and constipation and may be helpful with inflammatory bowel disease, lactose intolerance, and allergies. There may be other benefits, but more studies are needed.
It can be a challenge finding foods that have live bacteria. Yogurt is one that has received a lot of attention, but some types kills bacteria during the heating process losing their healthful benefit. Make sure to check the label for the statement “live active cultures” as this means that the product was fermented AFTER heat treatment. Not all sources of probiotics are created equal either. Some yogurts contain organisms that are not native to humans and don’t survive in our intestines. In addition, some products we think may be rich in probiotics aren't. For example, frozen yogurt contains no live bacteria, and is only good as a delicious treat.
Here is a list of food sources that contain probiotics:
Some types of pickles and sauerkraut (they should not be pasteurized)
Tempeh (soybean product)
Salt water brined olives
Soft, aged cheeses (cheddar, parmesan, etc)
You can also find probiotic supplements on the market. If you wish to purchase a supplement, make sure that it is from a reliable source. Often, supplements do not go through the same testing that drugs do. I like culturelle as we used it in the hospital often. Other brands include Dr. Mercola’s Complete Probiotics, and BioK products. The best thing to do is do a little research and check out the product before purchasing. Another important note about probiotics is that health benefits can be strain-specific and not all may be necessary. Research has also discovered that this bacteria communicates with our brain helping to send important signals that, for example, can help with inflammation and satiety.
Quick & Easy Pickled Vegetable Recipe
10 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped in half
2 cups white vinegar
6 tsp kosher salt
Fresh dill sprigs
Celery seeds (if you have it)
Variety of your favorite vegetables that you have on hand including green beans, cauliflower, onions, cucumbers, asparagus, carrots, celery, radishes, turnips, parsnips
6-7 medium canning jars and lids ( these should be cleaned beforehand with warm soapy water)
Step 1: Cut up your vegetables. Sprinkle about 1/2 tsp - 1 tsp of the celery, mustard, coriander, and peppercorn seeds at the bottom of each jar. You can always had extra seasonings like turmeric, canning seasoning, or extra pepper. Add in a few sprigs of dill to each jar. Divide the cut vegetables evenly into each jar. Make sure to pack them tightly.... you would be surprised at how much can fit in those jars!
Step 2: In a medium saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Reduce the heat so the water simmers and add the garlic. Cook for 5 minutes. Add the vinegar and salt, raise the heat and bring to a boil, stirring until the salt dissolves. Remove from the heat.
Step 3: Carefully pour the hot vinegar and garlic mixture over each can making sure to add the garlic cloves to each one. Tighten the lids and let them cool in the refrigerator for 24 hours. These will taste the best in a few weeks, but can be enjoyed with a few hours. They should last about 3 months.
* If you want the cans to last longer, please follow the directions on the canning package. Normally, you would bring a large pot to a boil and have them sit in hot boiling water for about 5-10minutes to seal them in. Then, let them cool for 24 hours without touching the lids on a wire rack on the counter.