Better for your health and pocket: Nature’s probiotic

Eating food laden with good, live bacteria works to enhance our gut and boost our immune system

Dina al-Shibeeb
Dina al-Shibeeb - Al Arabiya News
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The health-conscious among us pay hefty prices for probiotic supplements in a bid to replenish and boost good bacteria and yeasts in our gut, forgetting that fermented food and beverages are great natural sources.

Health experts say our gut hosts 70 percent of cells that form our immune system, making it key for healthier, stronger bodies.

Eating food laden with good, live bacteria is not only pocket-friendly, but probiotic supplements - while convenient - do not always contain sufficient amounts of live bacteria and in various forms.

In the fermentation process, the beneficial bacteria create enzymes and additional vitamins, which makes them exceptionally healthy

New York-based nutritionist Kim Ross

“It’s usually best to get the beneficial bacteria from foods rather than supplements, because there will be a variety of bacterial strains,” New York-based nutritionist Kim Ross told Al Arabiya News.

“The more diverse the strains are, the better for balancing the gut’s bacterial colonies. One can get various bacterial strains in a pill, but it may not be in the ratio nature intended.”

One can get these good bacteria and yeast by fermentation. “In the fermentation process, the beneficial bacteria create enzymes and additional vitamins, which makes them exceptionally healthy,” Ross said.

However, Stephanie Karl, a nutritionist at the Dubai-based JTS Medical Center, said “natural maintenance from kimchi isn’t going to be enough” in cases of men and women who “constantly suffer from dandruff, fungus irrigation, smelly toes, vaginal infection, urine infection.”

Karl urges people to “bring in the army of probiotic” supplements with different spectrums to keep the gut’s bacteria diverse. She views naturally fermented food “as an added advantage.”

Ilya Mechnikov won the Nobel Prize in physiology in 1908 for researching the benefits of a diet rich in enzymes.

The scientist concluded that the main reason for the health and longevity of Bulgarians were the microbes contained in Bulgarian yogurt.

Karl says home-made yogurt is better than commercial refrigerated yogurt. The same goes forother fermented food and beverages. “You really have to make it yourself.”

1- Sauerkraut


The famous fermented cabbage known as sauerkraut has been used in Europe for centuries to treat stomach ulcers. Its effectiveness for soothing the digestive tract has been well established by numerous studies.

2- Tempeh


Tempeh is a traditional fermented soy product originally from Indonesia. It is a great substitute to legumes if you want to avoid feeling gassy.

3- Kimchee


Kimchee, also spelled gimchi, is a traditional fermented Korean dish made of vegetables such as napa cabbage, radish, scallion or cucumber with a variety of seasonings.

4- Kefir


Kefir is a fermented milk drink cultured from kefir grains. It is loaded with calcium, protein and B-vitamins. Many people consider it a healthier, more powerful version of yogurt.

5- Kombucha


Kombucha is a fermented, lightly effervescent, sweetened black or green tea.

6- Olives


Olives in brine have large amounts of probiotics, since the brine allows probiotic cultures to flourish.

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