Eating fermented foods is a great way to introduce probiotics into our digestive systems and help our systems regain balance for overall health. Probiotics have been shown to help slow or reverse some diseases, improve bowel health, aid digestion, and improve immunity. Recent research indicates that the health of our gut leads to whole body wellness as well as to improved mental health, memory, and many other benefits!
In launching my online Fermented Nut Cheeze class, I’m realizing that purchasing probiotic powders, a key ingredient which provides a simple way to enable the fermentation process, may be a bit intimidating. There are so many options, potencies, and added ingredients that it can become confusing and a “stopping point” to making your own delicious nut cheezes. Here are some hints from my own experience to help you through this.
Key things to keep in mind when looking for probiotics:
- I would always suggest buying local if you can! I know that it’s sometimes challenging to find good products in small towns or rural areas. So don’t afraid to buy online if you need to. (I do!)
- Look for a probiotic that contains several strands of bacteria; at least one strand of Lactobacillus and one of Bifidobacterium. If you have particular health challenges that you are trying to address in incorporating more fermented foods into your lifestyle, you may want to do a bit of online research about what strands are best for your condition.
- In general, aim for 5-50 billion CFU’s (number of organisms in a single dose). Five billion is good for maintenance of a healthy digestive tract. Unfortunately, because of our processed food culture, many of us have compromised systems. Things like stress and age can also call for more in terms of rebalancing our gut flora. More than 50 billion though, just increases the cost without much added benefit.
- If you can, choose a powder over capsules. Sometimes that’s not possible and you just end up emptying the capsules to equal the amount you need (1 tsp = 4-5 capsules), but why get the extra packaging if it’s not needed? Save yourself time and money!
- If you’re making vegan cheeze be sure to look for brands labelled as Non Dairy and Vegetarian or Vegan. Some probiotics are derived from dairy, which you’ll want to avoid. Also, many brands will only label their probiotics as Vegetarian because the bacteria are “live” and thus are respecting vegans who choose not to eat “live” foods. I also like to look for Gluten Free and Sugar Free.
- Brands that contain prebiotics (non-digestible plant fiber that promotes the growth of beneficial microorganisms in the intestines) as well as probiotics are great, since prebiotics essentially act as fertilizer to the probiotics themselves. But, this combo isn’t a “must have” for a probiotic as long as you incorporate healthy servings of prebiotics into your daily lifestyle (e.g. garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, bananas, etc.) [Note: Sometimes the prebiotics will be listed out separately on the package and other times they will simply be listed as Inulin.]
- Buy a flavorless brand (unless you want your Fermented Nut Cheeze to taste like raspberries!)
- Avoid fillers, preservatives, artificial colours, and sweeteners if possible (e.g. Maltodextrin, Silicon Dioxide, Mannitol etc.). Your system will be much happier if you do!
- As with anything, if you can get organic, do (you’ll be certain to avoid GMO’s that way)! And if possible, buy raw too!
- Refrigerated versus shelf stable? It used to be that all probiotics had to be refrigerated to keep bacteria alive and healthy. These days, the technology has changed and there are good shelf stable varieties. If buying shelf stable, be sure that somewhere on the packaging it states that the potency is guaranteed until the expiration date. In other words, saying that the product contains 50 billion CFU when produced, doesn’t meant it will still contain that much after sitting on the shelf for a few months. And even shelf stable brands should be kept away from sources of heat and moisture.
- The advantage to using a probiotic powder in making Fermented Nut Cheeze is that it’s flavorless and so the taste of your cheeze will depend entirely on the fresh and/or dried herbs and spices you add into the recipe. However, remember that fermented foods that are not pasteurized typically will contain more probiotics than any powder or capsules you can buy. So think of using some miso or sauerkraut juice as the base of your fermented nut cheeze instead. In doing so, the flavor (of miso or sauerkraut) will come through in the final product so be sure to thoughtfully integrate other flavors for a yummy gourmet cheeze!
Now go forth and make your own Fermented Nut Cheeze!