Probiotic Foods for Optimum Health

 

A healthy gut is essential for optimum health and a strong immune system.  Probiotic supplements have been used by many holistic health believers for years and probitoc foods have been used in traditional cultures for centuries.  Recently, probiotics have become widely accepted as an important dietary need by mainstream physicians and medical professionals because of its healing properties.

The friendly bacteria found in probiotic supplements and foods can help to treat and prevent a wide array of ailments.  Probiotics aid in the healing process of many digestive disorders like irritable bowl syndrome, chronic diarrhea or constipation, colitis, or chron’s disease.  Many health problems occur from inflammation in the body, like cancer, celiac disease, arthritis and asthma which can be calmed with probitics.  In addition the strength of the immune system in the body depends on the health of the intestinal tract.  If the gut is not functioning properly and is not absorbing nutrients from food then the immune system is compromised.

Eating a wide variety of probiotic foods is important because each food contains a different strain of bacteria that is needed in the gut.  By eating a variety of foods you will ensure that you are supplied with all the necessary strains.  Each strain has a very specific job within the intestines which makes it important to consume a good variety.

There are fermented foods from many different cultures around the world that have been eaten by many generations.  Incorporating these foods into your diet will provide all the amazing health benefits of probiotics and are also less expensive then buying probiotics in pill form.  Many of these foods can be made at home with a little patience.  See this post on yogurt making at home: Homemade Coconut Milk Yogurt in a Slow Cooker.  Some of these probiotic foods include:

  • Sauerkraut – fermented cabbage (Europe and America)
  • Kimchi – pickled cabbage (Korea)
  • Kombucha – fermented tea (China, Japan, Russia)
  • Sour Pickles – fermented cucumber (Europe)
  • Fermented Vegetables (Europe)
  • Yogurt – fermented milk and non-dairy milk
  • Natto – fermented soybeans (Japan)
  • Miso – fermented soybean, barley, brown rice (Japan)
  • Tempeh – fermented soybeans (Indonesia)
  • Kefir – fermented milk (Europe)

Making fermented foods at home is a lot of fun.  It took me a while to perfect it but I make my coconut milk yogurt very often at home and I also enjoy making homemade sauerkraut.  If you are new to these foods I would suggest buying some of them first and trying it to see how you like them and find your favorites and then try to make them yourself for better quality and freshness.

Do you make your own probiotic foods?  What are your favorite recipes?

Homemade Coconut Milk Yogurt in a Slow Cooker

 

My first attempt at making coconut milk yogurt didn’t work at all (see post: Coconut Milk Yogurt Flop).  This time around I changed a few things and I did get yogurt but it’s not perfect.

My goal is to get more probiotic foods in our diet because of all the amazing health benefits it provides (like immune support and healthy digestion).  Yogurt is a great option because it tastes good and my daughter happily eats it.  Dairy products aren’t the greatest option for me and I tend to keep it away from my daughter as well.  Coconut milk is a great alternative since it has its own health benefits in addition to the probiotics in the yogurt.

My second try at this was a big improvement from the first try but this is still a work in progress for me.  The yogurt definitely inoculated because what I ended up with tastes and smells like yogurt but it was quite soupy.  The consistency was not really like a yogurt.  What I got was great for smoothies or frozen fruit pops but not perfect for eating like a yogurt because it was so thin.  Here is the recipe I used this time:

  • 6 cups coconut or almond milk
  • 3/4 cup store bought coconut milk yogurt (as a starter)
  • 6 capsules of powdered probiotics ( I used PB8)
  • 2 tbsp. agar agar
  • 1 tbsp. maple syrup
  • Maple syrup and frozen fruit to flavor

Pour the milk into the crock pot and turn it on low for 2 1/2 hours.  Turn off the crock pot and let it sit for 3 hours.  Scoop out one cup of milk and lightly heat on the stove and add the agar agar.  Cook until the agar agar has melted and let it cool for a few minutes so it is not too hot then pour it back into the crock. At the same time scoop out a second cup of milk and whisk it together with the probiotics, the store bought yogurt (or 3.4 cup of your own homemade yogurt) and 1 tbsp of maple syrup and then pour it back into the crock.  Cover the crock and wrap with two thick bath towels and leave overnight or 8-12 hours.  Blend with maple syrup and fruit to flavor and refrigerate.

The below picture is what I got when I woke up in the morning.  It was kind of a soupy yogurt.

I spooned about 1 cup of the yogurt with 1/4 cup of fruit and 1 tablespoon of maple syrup into the blender and blended on a very low setting for only a few seconds.

I made blueberry, strawberry, mango and vanilla.  All of them tasted great and we did enjoy it.  I also put some into an ice pop tray and froze them for my daughter for snacks and she loves it.

I am going to give this another try.  This weekend I watched a few youtube videos on yogurt making and read a few more blogs about doing non-dairy yogurt so I’ve come up with some more ideas on how to make this work.  After I take my chicken stock (see post: How to Make Homemade Bone Broth) out of the crock pot later today I’m throwing in another batch of yogurt!

Are you wondering why I am going through the trouble of making this at home instead of buying it?  Well, first of all this is really fun for me.  I love to cook and create new recipes and I love to make things that save us a lot of money.  In addition, homemade yogurt doesn’t have any added gums or fillers that the commercial kinds have in them.  I like to keep things as simple and as close to nature as possible.  I figured out the cost of all the supplies I used to make the yogurt versus what it costs to buy it and it is a huge savings.  Here is the math:

Supplies

Coconut Milk $2.50
Bought Yogurt $2.69
Agar Agar $0.50
Fruit $1.50
Total Cost $7.19

Yield: 7 1/2 cups of yogurt.

Store bought coconut milk yogurt (at full price) is around $2.69 for a 6 0z. cup (or 3/4 cup)

Results: 7 1/2 cups = 10 containers of store bought yogurt @$2.69 = $26.90.  This creates a savings of ($26.90 – $7.19) = $19.71

If you buy this product regularly, making it at home is a huge savings!

Here are some of the other blogs and websites I have been reading to do my research on this topic if you are interested:

Have you tried making non-dairy yogurt with coconut milk or almond milk?  How did it turn out?  Do you have any tips or tricks to give me?  I would love to hear from you!

This post was shared at The Healthy Home Economist, Homestead Barn Stop, Homemade Monday, Homemade Monday, Mangia Monday

Update! November 18, 2011: I made this recipe again yesterday and it came out perfect!  I realized my mistake from last time.  I didn’t heat the coconut milk with the agar agar well enough.  This time I heated it a bit longer and made sure it was all dissolved.  The consistency of the finished yogurt is almost exactly like store bought coconut yogurt!  I’m very excited I have perfected this one.