Can you believe it is October already and we are less than 12 weeks away from Christmas? I am suddenly very aware of how dark and cold it is when I leave the house in the mornings.
Unfortunately for most people the weather turning colder also means their diet and health suffer. We crave warm comforting food, not salads. More and more carbs creep in to our daily menu. Less and less fiber remains, causing problems with digestion. Central heating, cold air and winds dry out our skin, making it more sensitive. The immune system suffers too, making us more susceptible to colds.
Whilst we are enjoying the last few summer days, now would be a good time to help your body prepare for the colder season.
Good Bacteria In Your Gut – Probiotics
One of the most effective ways to do it is to include probiotics into your regular diet. This can be either by means of taking probiotic supplements or including probiotic foods into your meals. You might have seen adverts on tv, mentioning the friendly bacteria in your gut. Probiotics are that friendly bacteria that help your body perform the way it should. There are different types of bacteria, that are responsible for different functions. Probiotics improve the immune system, promote healthy digestion and have been proven effective for improving various skin conditions.
Probiotic supplements are the easy and fast way to introduce some good bacteria to your digestive system. In the past probiotic supplements used to be less effective and less convenient to use. The bacteria in them could not survive the acid in the stomach. This meant it was not carried far enough into the digestive system. The supplements were sensitive to temperature changes and had to be refrigerated.
Modern day probiotic supplements such as Bio-Kult are a lot more advanced. All you need to do is take 1-2 capsules with your regular meals. It can be stored at room temperature and comes in convenient coated capsules which are easy to swallow. Bio-Kult contains 14 live bacteria cultures which are proven to withstand the high acidity in the stomach.
The live bacteria in Bio-Kult and other probiotic supplements make them suitable for making fermented foods at home. Home-made yoghurt or fermented vegetables are very easy to make and, unlike shop-bought products, will only contain natural ingredients.
Including probiotic foods into your regular diet is an excellent long term strategy on how to keep healthy. You cannot keep taking probiotic supplements forever. You can, however, adjust your recipes and meals to include some of the foods from the list below. To this day, no matter how advanced technology and research get, the most effective probiotics are the ones that come from natural sources. Probiotic foods include more types of bacteria. The bacteria tends to survive for longer, giving you a more lasting effect.
Kefir is the most powerful probiotic and is unique in its qualities. It is made using kefir grains that are colonies of living bacteria. Suitable for lactose intolerant, it makes a great milk substitute in smoothies and cooking recipes. I am a great fan of kefir and have done posts on benefits of kefir in the past. Kefir smoothie makes a great breakfast drink and kefir & oats pancakes are delicious as well as good for you.
Add some Bio-Kult or other live probiotic to milk to ferment it and make probiotic milk. Try it with some honey or vanilla for flavour. Not as effective as kefir, this is still a great rich in probiotics drink.
Yoghurt is the most common probiotic that gets the most publicity. Unfortunately most shop-bought yoghurts also contain sugar, flavourings and other additives. I like yoghurt but find its natural taste too sharp. I find mixing it with berries and a bit of honey for flavour makes a huge difference.
All varieties of soft cheese including Feta, Brie, Camembert and Ricotta are rich in probiotics. Add feta to salads, make ricotta pancakes or simply have a slice of brie with a Ryvita cracker for breakfast.
Miso is fermented bean paste that will add a beautiful Asian flavour to your dishes. Use it as a marinade or as an easy soup base.
Fermented vegetables like gherkins and cherry tomatoes are popular in Eastern European cultures. They make a great accompaniment for a Sunday roast. Available in Polish, Turkish and Russian shops, you can sometimes find fermented vegetables in the main supermarkets too. Often they would be labelled “Sour Pickled” (not to be confused with “pickled”. Pickles contain vinegar which destroys the good bacteria).
If you ever go to Germany, try their sausage, mash and fermented cabbage, called Sauerkraut. Sauerkraut is available from most UK supermarkets or can be made at home. If you find the taste too strong, rinse sauerkraut in cold water, add a little olive oil and herbs to taste.
This is my favourite item on the list by far.I have listed it the last, because the probiotic in dark chocolate is unfortunately accompanied by a high calorie count. In reasonable doses, however, dark chocolate is good for you. In addition to being a powerful antioxidant, it is also a probiotic food. Make sure you go for 80% and above as milk chocolate tends to be full of sugar.