Are you getting enough probiotic rich foods in your diet? If you’re like most people, the answer is probably no. Consuming the right amount of probiotics is a vital part of maintaining your digestive health, but there are tons of other benefits to eating probiotic-rich foods and drinks. Jonno Proudfoot presents some of these, along with a tasty probiotic-rich black tea recipe.
Why probiotic-rich foods?
A balanced gut biome (the naturally occurring bacteria within your body) is the ticket to supreme health. Here are some of the benefits of eating enough probiotic-rich foods:
- Replenish and restore balance of the gut biome
- Reduce food sensitivities
- Reduce inflammation
- Reduce intestinal permeability (a healthy digestive tract reduces toxin absorption and the propensity for auto-immune disease)
- Increase nutrient absorption
- Assist in weight loss
- Help digest and assimilate your food
- Influence the activity of hundreds of genes
How much intake?
There are lots of supplements you can take to boost your probiotic intake, but often these supplements are destroyed by the stomach acid before they can reach the colon, which is where you want them. Fermented foods, in contrast, provide a protective layer to the bacteria and thus help them get where they need to go. Fermented foods are the long-term solution, but if you are just starting out with boosting your intake, taking supplements for the first 30 days will help to kick-start the proliferation of good gut bacteria. Also, if you have a compromised immune system as a result of taking antibiotics, travelling to foreign countries, are under great stress, have had recent food poisoning or gastroenteritis, or another illness such as flu or a yeast infection, it is recommended you take a probiotic supplement in conjunction with probiotic-rich foods and drinks for an added immune boost – even if it’s just while you’re getting into the swing of things.
- Fermented foods – start off with a teaspoon at every meal for one or two days and monitor your body’s reaction. If you encounter bloating and abdominal discomfort, switch to once every three days until the symptoms subside. Then up the dose.
- Fermented drinks – start off with a quarter of a cup of kefir or half a cup of kombucha per day and monitor your body’s reaction. If you encounter light bloating and abdominal discomfort, lower your intake until you find a sweet spot that doesn’t stimulate the above.
The maximum, or recommended, amount to end up on would be about one glass of kombucha or kefir per day, along with one portion of fermented veg every couple of days, or vice versa. Just like that healthy soil in your vegetable garden, you need to keep fertilising your gut.
You could skip the drink one day and have more vegetables, or the standard serving of vegetables. It’s not clinical medicine, so you can’t overdose or underdose. It is more like watering a garden. If you miss a day, don’t drown the plants the next day; pick it up again, carry on – and just ensure you’re not poisoning your plants!
Classic kombucha is a fermented black tea with Eastern origins, and there is something about this naturally fizzy drink that has trendy kids all over the world wildly excited. As a result of fermentation, it is rich in nutrients and healthy bacteria.
Unlike beer or wine, which make use of yeast alone, the fermentation aid in kombucha is a jelly-like mushroom called a scoby, short for “symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast”. If you buy kombucha from any health shop, you can make your own scoby, provided the stuff you’re buying is high-enough quality.
The fermentation process is the key, converting sugar into nutrients and bacteria, but it isn’t an exact science, with timings dependent on different climates, room temperatures and other factors. You can tell your kombucha isn’t fermented enough if it’s still sweet to the taste. Remember, without sufficient fermentation, you’re simply drinking a sugary drink. You will know your kombucha is ready to drink when it tastes sour – almost free from any kind of sweetness.
Making the scoby
- 2.5 litres water
- 6 teabags (Five Roses, Earl Grey or an Asian black tea)
- 200g white sugar
- 1 bottle (350-500ml) store-bought live kombucha
- A 3-litre jar
- A 400ml jar (or any small jar)
- A muslin cloth
- Make sure the large jar is clean and sterilised
- Boil the water (either in the kettle or in a pot)
- Place the teabags and sugar into the jar
- Pour the boiling water over the tea and the sugar, stir gently and leave to brew and cool (essentially making one massive cup of tea)
- Once the tea is cool, remove the teabags
- Pour in the bottle of kombucha. Remove some of the tea to make space if necessary
- Cover the opening of the jar with the muslin cloth and fasten it with an elastic band
- Leave the jar at room temperature for about two weeks
- A thick layer of jelly-like “scoby” will form either at the bottom or around the opening of the jar. It should be the same texture as thick, overcooked lasagne sheets
- To harvest the scoby, use a pair of tongs to lift it into the small clean sterile jar and cover it with some leftover “tea” from your main batch. You can leave it in the tea for up to two weeks before using it to make your next batch
- Note: the tea that is left in your big jar is your first batch of kombucha. You can bottle it, decant it into jugs or just leave it in the jar
Making the kombucha
- 3 litres water
- 6 teabags
- 200g white sugar
- 1 scoby (the kombucha mushroom)
- 250ml kombucha
- 3-litre jar
- Make sure your jar is clean and rinsed of detergent
- Boil the water
- Place the teabags, sugar and any flavour combinations (see below) into the jar
- Pour in the boiling water, stir gently to dissolve the sugar, and leave to brew and cool (making your one massive cup of tea)
- Wait until the mixture is cold
- Add the scoby and the old kombucha
- Cover it with a cloth and leave to ferment for a week in winter and three days in summer
During fermentation, the scoby may float to the top or sit at the bottom – don’t worry, either way.
Taste the kombucha before bottling. It should be crisp, refreshing and quite tart, with a slight fizz and only a very little sweetness on the palate. Because of the added sugar, it can sometimes be too sweet – in which case let it ferment a bit longer to allow the bacteria to eat more of the sugar as part of the fermentation process. As it gets older, the kombucha will get fizzier and dryer (more sour). If you’re worried about your carb count, wait three weeks to get a very crisp, non-sweet kombucha.
Before you bottle it, remove the scoby and store it in a jar with a cup of kombucha covering it to keep it alive.
Start small. Have a shot twice a day. Try get up to a cup or two per day.
Jonno Proudfoot is the author The Real Meal Revolution and The Real Meal Revolution 2.0. The Real Meal Revolution diet plan is a radical, sustainable approach to healthy eating that has taken the world by storm. Check out the website for more information https://realmealrevolution.com/