On Probiotics

Leading up to my gallbladder surgery, I focused a lot on probiotic foods. I knew I’d be getting a good dose of antibiotics — the killer of those lovely bacteria that keeps our systems regular — and wanted to give my gut a head start.

It seems everyone is talking (or writing) about probiotics these days. I first encountered a probiotic evangelist back before my diagnosis. She was working with me to help pinpoint my digestive issues — particularly those in the intestinal area — and recommended I add kefir or yogurt to my diet. I did…for a while.

The kefir, which I drank in the morning, didn’t hurt me, but it didn’t address my *real* issue, which was the impact gluten had on my entire physical (and emotional and psychological) life. But, hey!, at least I was making my inner microbes happy. And I think I was digesting more effectively, but since I was focused on another problem, I didn’t pay the kind of attention I should have to the effects of the kefir.

Time passed, I got older, and circled back to probiotics. I’ve been really good about sneaking Greek yogurt into foods, and I’m sure my digestive system sighs in relief whenever I do. Yogurt, for me, is one of the easiest and most flexible ways to increase my intake of good microbes.

Lately, though, I’ve been on a huge kimchi/other fermented vegetables kick. The sour, salty flavors really appeal to my palate, and they are so easy to incorporate into my diet. I’ve even addicted my book club to the smoked jalapeno sauerkraut I picked up at Whole Foods on a whim. Addictive stuff!

Here are some great sources of probiotics. When it comes to yogurts and their like, make sure you’re buying products with live active cultures to ensure the maximum benefit from the items you consume.

  • Kimchi — Kimchi is a Korean specialty. Tangy, spicy, and made from cabbage, radishes, or other vegetables, it’s versatile and delicious. While I could eat kimchi by the spoonful from the jar (don’t judge!), one of my favorite preparations is kimchi fried rice. Mix well-drained kimchi into your fried rice recipe.
  • Sauerkraut — I’d always been suspicious of sauerkraut, possibly because my childhood experiences were lacking. It turns out the soggy, flavorless food I’d been served bore no resemblance to real sauerkraut. Traditional sauerkraut is made from cabbages, but other veggies can be mixed in. One great way to eat good sauerkraut is part of a vegetable fritter — the tangy, salty flavor adds a lot (ditto if you add kimchi).
  • Pickles — According to my husband, he consumed his lifetime allotment of pickles in his early childhood. All I can think is he ate A LOT of pickles, because I was a pickle-eating prodigy, and have never come close to achieving my lifetime allotment. I love pickles, and cannot resist buying them. And making them. My easy pickles don’t have all the great probiotic benefits, but they definitely taste amazing!
  • Kombucha — Not my personal favorite, but some people swear by it! This tea is slightly carbonated, and, if you live in certain areas, easily available at all major grocery stores. Some people make their own kombucha. Obviously, I’m of the buyer beware school here…
  • Miso — See, I knew I loved miso for a reason! While you need to be careful to ensure your miso paste is gluten free — some are made from rye, barley, or even wheat — once you find a GF brand, it’s your best friend ever. Miso soup is pure comfort for me, and I love making a miso-honey or miso-mustard glaze for salmon or chicken. And it’s a matter of moments to throw together a miso-based salad dressing. That little bit of “what is that” will surprise your guests!
  • Kefir — Kefir is not, technically, yogurt, but is often lumped in with drinkable yogurt in the minds of most people. It is tangy, delicious, and generally easily consumed by those who have lactose intolerance. It’s also a good source of protein.
  • Yogurt — As mentioned, I sneak yogurt, particularly Greek yogurt, into lots of dishes. It’s my go-to substitute for sour cream and mayonnaise. I buy a couple of small containers of plain Greek yogurt every week just for cooking, and we keep some of the flavored variety on hand for fast breakfasts (I don’t eat those often as they often contain way too many calories for me, but my husband loves them!). You can also buy drinkable yogurts, which are great for when you’re on the go.

Have you been actively working to increase probiotics in your diet? Any thoughts?

Tip of the Week

Read labels carefully, especially when it comes to storing and refrigerating your probiotic foods. Generally, they do require refrigeration.

Gluten-Free Meal of the Week

Of course, it’s all about kimchi fried rice this week. I’m just post-surgery, and looking for something easy to make (and by easy to make, I mean something my husband can prepare while I supervise). While we both try to keep our diets on the low carb side, we both firmly believe that carbohydrates are critical to good function.

I love eggs with my fried rice, and, due to this gallbladder thing, have been eating a lot of poached eggs. They are easy to make, either the traditional, dump-egg-in-water way or with silicon egg poachers (don’t forger the cooking spray to make the egg slide out). However, I am eager to try the slow-poaching method I read about in the Momofuku cookbook (create recovery reading!).

  • Kimchi Fried Rice with Poached Egg
  • Spring Rolls with Dipping Sauce
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