8 Reasons to Add Probiotic Foods to your Diet

January 3, 2012 · 76 comments

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Before refrigeration was invented lacto-fermentation was the method used to preserve food. Humans reaped the benefits of this method by eating these foods and hosting the good bacteria. Lactic acid is a natural preservative that inhibits putrefying bacteria. Lactobacilli reside on the surface of vegetables and fruits and will convert the sugars and starches in these foods into lactic acid. Eating these naturally preserved foods aids the human digestive system in many ways. First and foremost, we are able to maintain large populations of beneficial bacteria in our gut simply by eating cultured foods. Most people who do this, will not require a probiotic supplement.

Beneficial Bacteria Live Symbiotically With Us

These bacteria form the mucosal layer of the human digestive tract. Most of the bacteria reside in the colon, but they do live in all the other parts of the digestive tract, although in lower numbers. There are literally trillions of cells of bacteria, fungi and yeast living in a balanced harmonic state in a healthy individual. There are actually more gut microflora in our intestines than there are cells in our bodies. That’s a lot! And they are very important to our health.

Gut Bacteria Have a Big Job

1- Beneficial bacteria provide enzymes which aid in digestion. Fermented foods are rich in enzymes that assist us in assimilating our food. As we age, the number of enzymes decrease, contributing to poor absorption of nutrients. Eating cultured foods rich in enzymes will contribute to longevity and are part of any anti-aging program.

2- Beneficial bacteria provide a protective barrier along the entire length of the digestive tract much like a thick layer of turf protecting top soil.

3- Beneficial bacteria provide antibiotic and antiviral substances for protection. Lactic acid bacteria enhance GI and systemic immunity in humans by:

  • Increasing B cells which recognize foreign substance.
  • Increasing phagocytic activity which works to destroy foreign matter.
  • Increasing IgA, IgG, IgM and Secretory IgA which boast antibody activity.
  • Increasing gamma interferon which supports white blood cells to fight infections and disease.


4- Lactic acid bacteria produce SCFA (short chain fatty acids) such as butyric acid and proprionic acid. Importantly, these organic acids lower the ph in the GI tract, making it more acidic which reduces the growth of pathogenic bacteria.

5- Beneficial bacteria nourish the enterocytes (cells of the lining the digestive tract) and are the primary source of energy for these cells. It is estimated that the gut cells receive 60-70% of their energy from bacterial activity.

6- Beneficial bacteria manufacture vitamins thus increasing vitamin content of the cultured foods.

7- Fermenting food increases the flavor. There’s a reason we like sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir, cultured cream and aged cheeses. It tastes good!

8- Fermenting food is inexpensive and it’s fun. There’s nothing fancy required for this hobby. And many of the foods required to make these recipes are very cheap.

9- Fermented foods restore the proper balance of bacteria in the gut. If you suffer from lactose intolerance, gluten intolerance, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, yeast infections, allergies, or asthma, you may benefit from eating cultured foods. All of these conditions have been linked to an imbalance in the microbiome in the gut.

It is best to get the beneficial bacteria from foods because there will be a variety of different strains. The more diverse the strains, the better for balancing the gut bacteria colonies.

Join me in my 28 Day Probiotic Food Challenge starting Monday January 9, 2012.


I’m trying to incorporate more cultured and fermented foods in my diet. Each week I’ll introduce another fermented food with recipes, videos, and compelling facts and tips that will motivate and astonish you!

Related Articles:

Probiotics: The New Therapeutic Frontier

The Autoimmune Crisis: What to do About It

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This post is shared at: Real Food Wednesday, Sustainable Ways, Healthy 2Day, Gluten Free Wednesday, Whole Food Wednesday, Mommy Club, These Chicks Cooked, Full Plate Thursday, Pennywise Platter, Thriving on Thursday, Simple Lives Thursday, Fresh Bites Friday, Foodie Friday, Freaky Friday, Friday Food, Living Well Hop, Sunday School, Sugar-free Sunday, Real Food 101, Mouthwatering Monday, My Meatless Monday, Monday Mania, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, Tempt My Tummy Tueday, Traditional Tuesday, Hearth & Soul Hop, Tasty Tuesday Tidbits, Tasty Tuesday 33

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{ 52 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Michele January 4, 2012 at 6:56 am

I am up for the challenge! We are going to attempt to make natto soon and I need to make another batch of kimchee. My goal is to eat a couple of different fermented foods everyday. Thanks for kicking this off.


2 Jill January 4, 2012 at 7:04 am

Hi Michele,
I’ll have the signup page posted on January 9th!


3 Coach January 4, 2012 at 7:48 am

How do you add fermented food if you have dairy and soy allergies?


4 Jill January 4, 2012 at 10:06 am

Hi Coach,
That’s easy. I will be demonstrating many non-dairy options for adding probiotic foods to your diet (that do not involve soy).


5 Joy at The Liberated Kitchen January 4, 2012 at 1:58 pm

There are lots of probiotic foods that don’t involve soy or dairy! Lots of people use whey to start their fermented veggies, but there is no need to. Check out our latest post on fermenting veggies for the explanation:


6 Charlotte January 4, 2012 at 8:02 am

Hi Jill, I will be joining you! Just made a big batch of sauerkraut, but keep hesitating over yoghurt making as I’ve never done it before and we’ve been off dairy a long time now. I want to introduce all kinds of fermented dairy over the coming months if we tolerate it.


7 Jill January 4, 2012 at 10:08 am

Hi Charlotte,
I will be demonstrating how to make yogurt as well as many non-dairy options. Signup will be Monday January 9 — there will be a signup page.


8 Judy@Savoring Today January 4, 2012 at 8:12 am

Hi Jill, I like the new look of the site, well done. Looks like your new year is off to a great start!


9 Jill January 4, 2012 at 10:08 am

Hi Judy,
Thanks for your kind words! I am happy with the new look too!


10 Meagan January 4, 2012 at 10:25 am

I really enjoyed reading this one – forwarding it on. Thanks for using science behind your statements :)


11 Paula @ Whole Intentions January 4, 2012 at 10:27 am

What a great start to the New Year – can’t wait to see what you bring! Thanks for sharing the importance of fermented foods – it’s all too easy to push it aside to do another day.


12 Vicki B. January 4, 2012 at 11:09 am

I’ve researched fermented foods and are in agreement to the health benefits. But I am nervous and at a lost as how to start. It is a little intimidating, hopefully you will be able to help me get on my feet. ;)


13 Jill January 4, 2012 at 1:30 pm

Hi Vicki,
It is definitely a little intimidating and kind of scary! The only way to start is, well, to start somewhere. Pick one food item that sounds like a good fit and then do it. After you make a fermented food for the first time you get to taste it, see what it looks like and you become more confident about it. I’ll have videos to show you how to do it as well.


14 France @ Beyond The Peel January 4, 2012 at 1:06 pm

Wow that sounds great Jill. I could definitely increase my consumption of fermented foods. Count me in. Thanks for sharing this post with Whole Food Wednesdays at http://www.beyondthepeel.net/2012/01/whole-food-wednesdays-keeping-it-real.html.
I look forward to seeing you next week.


15 Amanda January 4, 2012 at 1:34 pm

This is a great and informative post. Do you mind if I share it on my blog with a link back to your site? Thanks!


16 Jill January 4, 2012 at 3:34 pm

Hi Amanda,
Share away!


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18 Joy at The Liberated Kitchen January 4, 2012 at 2:03 pm

I love the idea of your Probiotic Food Challenge. We have found it’s important to go slow when starting new probiotic foods, but it’s good to put the focus there!

We’ve been on the GAPS diet for about a year and lately while we have our everpresent pink kraut and yogurt going, I’ve been getting lazier about making sure I eat a variety of probiotic foods. I’m missing my water kefir!!!

Cultures for Health is having a sale right now on starter cultures. I think it lasts until the 15th. Use the promo code STARTERS to get the deal! http://www.culturesforhealth.com/?a_aid=4da1546cd1306



19 Debbie January 4, 2012 at 2:55 pm

What are the foods you’re talking about? I don’t know of a lot of fermented foods, or maybe I do and I just don’t know it.


20 Jill January 4, 2012 at 3:35 pm

Hi Debbie,
We’re talking about yogurt ,dairy kefir, water kefir drinks, sauerkraut, pickles, other vegetables made the traditional way with probiotic cultures.


21 Kelly @ The Nourishing Home January 4, 2012 at 3:11 pm

Great post! Thanks so much! I plan to post a link to this on my FB page. Wishing you a very blessed New Year! :) kel


22 Dawn @ Small Footprint Family January 4, 2012 at 3:21 pm

Thanks for this post! It is straight to the point and very encouraging! Makes me want to try that homemade rootbeer again!


23 Jill January 4, 2012 at 3:35 pm

Hi Dawn,
I hope you join me in my Probiotic Foods Challenge starting January 9!


24 Jessica @ Delicious Obsessions January 4, 2012 at 3:35 pm

Awesome! I’m doing something similar – I’m doing a year long series called 52 Weeks of Bad A** Bacteria where I’m going to be making a different ferment or culture each week and then blogging about it. I look forward to seeing what goodies you make. Seems like 2012 is the year of fermenting! :)

The site looks great! Congrats!


25 Jill January 4, 2012 at 6:37 pm

Hi Jessica,
I hope you join us in the Probiotic Challenge starting January 9 — I will also have a Linky Carnival up for Probiotic Foods and I hope you come and share your ferments! I’ll be featuring the best!


26 Shu Han January 4, 2012 at 5:55 pm

that’s great, one of my favourite fermented food that is traditional to my culture, is kimchi! miso is great too, though some people may be against the idea of soy, it is actually very different from the unfermented soy bean or soy milk!


27 Jill January 4, 2012 at 6:38 pm

Hi Shu Han,
Yes, miso is fine in small amounts as it is fermented. I’m sure the traditional way of eating miso is in small amounts.


28 Susan January 4, 2012 at 6:10 pm

I am looking forward to adding fermented food recipes to my collection.


29 Jessica January 4, 2012 at 10:46 pm

We are doing a similar challenge at home this year – one fermented food a day. I just made fermented applesauce and getting ready to make fermented ginger, mustard, and ketchup!


30 Jill January 5, 2012 at 7:01 am

Hi Jessica,
That sounds great! I hope you come and share some of your recipes on the Probiotic Food Linky I will be putting up!


31 Sue Wendt January 5, 2012 at 7:09 am

Count me in. Thanks for all you do.


32 Pat January 5, 2012 at 10:08 am

Hi! Very good post! & nice to know. Pat


33 Debbie Strodel January 5, 2012 at 3:14 pm

Hey Jill, I too want to learn more about fermented foods and how to make them and how to eat them, so yeah, thanks!


34 Chrissy January 6, 2012 at 11:04 pm

G’day Jill
My name is Chrissy and I live in Brisbane/Queensland/Australia. I have just started using fresh Kefir grains to make my pro-biotic milk. We are in summer at the moment and here in Brisbane it gets pretty muggy (humid). My kefir is going mad, it has grown double in just a few short days. My kefir is ready in less than 24hrs. Have you used and experienced Kefir Jill? Can I stop this fast process without damaging the grain by placing these in the fridge. I don’t really want it to go dormant however I don’t want it to produce so fast either. Even if I use a small amount of grain it still goes very fast. Do you have a recipe or some ideas to make the Kefir thicker without making it cheesy? (like cottage cheese, just a thick substance instead of runny) Can you help?

Thank you
Chrissy :-))))


35 Jill January 7, 2012 at 5:38 pm

Hi Chrissy,
I am not that experienced with milk kefir going too fast, but if you have a garden or any animals, they can eat some of the extra grains.

I will be putting a linky up for people to share recipes so be sure to come and look for recipes with kefir.

If you go to my resource page (at the top) and click on culture starters, it will bring you to Cultures for Health website. I’m sure you can find an answer to your questions there or even email Julie. She is a big help!


36 dixiebelle January 8, 2012 at 3:50 am

I am learning & trying lacto-fermentation, as a part of our family challenge, The Year of Eating Nutritiously! In fact, my water kefir grains & milk kefir grains will be arriving in the next couple of days (I had some purchased kefir this week & love the taste, plus made kefir cheese from it too). I am hoping to get some kombucha scoby from a friend this weekend too. I am not doing so great with lacto-fermenting vege’s so far, even though I have a Pickl-It container to do it in… really want to try cucumber pickles, and also, salsa, done this way! I really feed my family and I need to incorporate this into our lives… my GI system & whole body are crying out for some balance and function!

Chrissy, you could have sent some of your excess kefir grains down to me in Canberra!!


37 Miz Helen January 8, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Hi Jill,
This is great information and a great challenge for all of us. Hope you are having a great week end and thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday.
Come Back Soon!
Miz Helen


38 Cristi January 11, 2012 at 3:43 pm

Great and informative post, and great challenge too! I’d love for you to stop by and share at What’s Cooking Wednesday (http://thekingscourt4.blogspot.com/2012/01/whats-cooking-wednesday-11112.html)! We meet each and every Wednesday, can’t wait to see you there :)


39 Connie January 11, 2012 at 7:56 pm

Great post…I just learned a whole lot that I didn’t know. I find it very difficult to eat yogourt…just doesn’t go down right. I can however have a few tablespoons of the Greek one…coconut I think.

Thank you for sharing all this wisdom.


40 Alea Milham January 17, 2012 at 12:12 am

Great post! Thanks for sharing your post with the Hearth and Soul Hop.


41 lactobacillus May 18, 2012 at 7:53 pm

Hi Jill, great post – I’m a firm believer in probiotics and their benefits!


42 Debby January 7, 2013 at 3:13 pm

Hi there,
Noticed you had a Probiotic food challenge in 2012 about this time
Are you going to continue the tradition…and have Another Probiotic 2013 Challenge?

Would LOVE it…thanks in Advance.
In Good Health and Peace,
Debby <3


43 Jill January 7, 2013 at 4:26 pm

Hi Debby,
I may, but it would be later in the year — for now it is the Kombucha Challenge!


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