Probiotics or Cultured Food: Which is Better?


Probiotics are currently all the rage, there’s no doubt about it. Jamie Lee Curtis, a renowned actress, is now best known for her stint in the Activia commercials where she promotes Dannon’s only probiotic yogurt.  If you’re new to my site, you can click here for recent media regarding the ingredients found in Activia.

So What are the Benefits of Probiotics?

Probiotics come in all shapes and sizes and for the busy individual, a tablet or pill form is often the most convenient.  But are probiotic tablets the best option available? And how do they compare to cultured food options? Truthfully, they’re just not quite the same. Supplements are a great choice but they’re supposed to be in addition to a healthy diet, and we should always lean towards consuming foods rather than pill popping. Take kimchi for example, a traditional fermented vegetable dish from Korea.

Within this one side dish there are 12 strains of Lactobacillus acquired through the fermentation process- and all 12 were “able to survive gastrointestinal conditions simulating stomach and duodenum passage”. Furthermore, these strains had a higher adherence to the gut than a Lactobacillus strain (rhamnosus GG) that’s already being used commercially as a probiotic. >>Click here for my feature in Total Beauty Magazine: Believe in Bacteria<< 

Though L. rhamnosus isn’t a slacker strain, as all 7 of its sub-strains proved to have good survival rates in simulated gastric and duodenal digestion. Kimchi’s strains weren’t just able to survive however; they all showed antimicrobial capabilities to numerous foodborne pathogens and have even demonstrated the ability to lower cholesterol in at least 2 separate studies. Kimchi related strains have also been found to combat obesity and improve allergic dermatitis induced by chemicals in mice. It’s basically a super food- and there’s no guarantee a supplemental equivalent would be able to provide as many benefits as one serving of this Korean staple. No wonder they eat it as frequently as they do! The health benefits are well worth it.

Gut Friendly Food

 

Kimchi isn’t the only fermented vegetable option that can operate as a probiotic powerhouse. Sauerkraut has been studied for its healthful bacterial strains as well. Naturally fermented sauerkraut contains 15 lactic acid producing strains >>here’s a link to my sauerkraut recommendation in Shape Magazine<< To match that with supplements you’d have to ingest 15 tablets.

One of these strains, known as L. Plantarum, was found to combat the bacteria H. Pylori- which causes peptic ulcers. Recently, antibiotic resistant H. Pylori strains have become more common, to the distress of physicians and their patients. They may not need to worry, however, as Dr. Rokka and associates of Agrifood Research Finland have found Sauerkraut could be used as a complementary means of suppressing the infection. Sauerkraut has also been found capable of suppressing E. Coli strain H7 completely in 15-28 days when it was of the non-acid resistant variety. Thus, a role as a complement to antibiotics during E. Coli infection is potentially open as well.

Besides their wealth of probiotic strains and antimicrobial capabilities, kimchi and sauerkraut have something else in common- they’re both fermented vegetable dishes. Fermentation of vegetables is an extremely old practice of food preservation. Fermentation is as simple as applying salt liberally to the desired vegetable, waiting for it’s natural liquids to seep out, and then submerging the vegetable in it’s own juices for weeks or months at a time. No refrigeration is necessary, and you don’t need to add any cultures either- they’re already in the vegetable. Herbs and other spices can be used as well to add flavor. They’re a great way to add probiotics to your diet naturally, while still keeping with the one-ingredient theory.  For books on fermentation, I recommend purchasing  The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from Around the World.

With all this in mind, can tablet supplements really compare to whole cultured foods? It doesn’t quite look like it. Survival of probiotic bacteria is dependent on quite a few variables and that includes the “food matrix” that brings it into your stomach in the 1st place.

A tablet form may be less effective, and it’s doubtful that a pill can guarantee the extra benefits that cultured foods bring to the table. So if you’re serious about adding probiotics into your diet, cultured foods like fermented vegetables would be your best bet. They’re rich in gut friendly bacteria strains, extra benefits, and are a one-ingredient option that won’t trigger inflammation and will be absorbed more readily. Add a dish to your next meal today, and start reaping the benefits. It’s unlikely you’ll regret it.

With a hectic schedule, it’s easy to choose the efficient option, but is that smart in the long run?

A non-processed veggie meal that can combat foodborne pathogens? Sounds like a great addition to any healthy diet. And here’s how you can add it to yours:

Carrot Kale Kraut

Ingredients

  1. 1 medium head cabbage, shredded
  2. 2 carrots, shredded
  3. 1 cup kale, shredded
  4. 1/2 TB. sea salt

Directions

1. Combine cabbage, carrots, sea salt, and whey in a medium bowl. Cover with a tea towel and leave to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes while salt pulls juices out of veggies. Remove towel about halfway through and pound a few times with a potato masher or meat hammer to make sure it’s getting juice.

2. Transfer to a wide-mouth quart jar or other fermenting container. Press down firmly, so that liquid comes to top of mixture. Leave 1″ space at top of jar. Cover tightly with lid or airlock.

3. Leave at room temperature for 3 to 7 days. In the first 24 hours, open the jar and press down firmly on ingredients a few times to make sure liquid is fully covering the mixture. Transfer to cool storage.

References

Kimchi’s many strains: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21215484

Probiotic longevity: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22475943

Kimchi vs. dermatitis: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18800885

Kimchi is a great probiotic food: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23124342

Kimchi anti-obesity effects: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22978326, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22816655

Sauerkraut’s many strains: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19490332

Sauerkraut and H. Pylori: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19490332

versus E. Coli: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16013372

Fermented Veggies: http://www.naturalnews.com/027443_vegetables_food_health.html