All winter long I’ve been learning about fermented foods. I’ve made several batches of sauerkraut and just put a new batch up last night (with caraway –YUM!). The glory of fermented foods are probiotics, those little guys who create a low pH environment which is very healthy for the body. The first two days I get to hear sounds of “glub, glub” as they proliferate and off-gas. This is how I know that fermentation has begun.
Claims are made that probiotics strengthen the immune system to combat allergies, stress, exposure to toxic substances and other diseases. The effects of probiotics are specific to the strain. For this reason, if you take probiotics, it’s important to consume a wide range and/or change the probiotics supplements you take from time to time.
Which foods and drinks naturally contain probiotics? Sauerkraut, kimchee, kombucha and kefir. You can buy them, although fermented foods are really easy to make. And fun. Making your own also ensures that the probiotics are alive and healthy when you are consuming the foods/drinks which contain them. If you purchase probiotics supplements, you’ll most often notice the quantity of probiotics “at the time of manufacture” or”prior to expiration.” If the number is at the time of manufacture, how many die by the time the product is transported, sits on a shelf, and purchased by you? Given that many probiotics require delicate environments (temperature, for example) the ability of guaranteeing life until expiration is unlikely.
If you purchase products which contain probiotics you might not know whether the products were pasteurize before or after the probiotics were added. Pasteurizing after they are added will kill them.
Many health food stores now carry unpasteurized sauerkraut. While I still encourage you to make your own, if you don’t have the time or inclination just yet, whet your appetite with healthy choices. Check the refrigerated section and look for labels which are not marked pasteurized. Some might indicate live culture or raw on the label. These are your best bets.