Although it wasn’t until fairly recently that the importance of probiotics for digestive and immune health became a hot topic, naturally occurring probiotics have themselves been used by global cultures for generations. A healthy human intestinal tract is populated with countless strains of helpful and essential bacteria, which serve many functions, from proper digestion to fighting off illness and disease. It is no wonder we are finally catching on to the importance of these little live fighters!
It’s hard not to notice them on supermarket shelves and in our drug stores, especially in pill form. However, knowing how difficult it is to get children to take pills begs the question- is there a better way to get their probiotics in? The answer is yes, and you may already have been doing it without even realizing it. Here are some foods that you can incorporate into your weekly rotation to ensure that their (and your!) probiotic levels are always optimal.
Yogurt: You may have already noticed your favorite kind touting “live and active cultures” on the label. Those are probiotics! Stick with organic, whole milk varieties.
Kefir: This is a fermented drink made from adding yeast and bacteria to milk. There are flavored varieties out there if plain is too strong for you, or you can have your kids add fresh fruit for flavor at home.
Pickles and Fermented Vegetables: Yes, pickles can be good for kids! Look for unpasteurized types, like Bubbies brand kosher dills or pickled tomatoes. Sauerkraut (fermented cabbage) is another great example, but again make sure it hasn’t been pasteurized (heated to a very high temperature, therefore killing all life inside). Add them to salads or on sandwiches for a crunchy treat.
Miso Soup: Did you know that real miso paste is a great source of probiotics and enzymes? It’s usually a mix of fermented beans, salt, and a “starter” called koji, and used to make the brothy soup we find so tasty. Here is a great video demonstrating how to make it at home: http://tinyurl.com/z8bgfmr
Making sure that your children are eating their probiotics on a regular basis is arguably one of the best ways to safeguard their gut health and immune system. On top of that, they can benefit from other nutrients in natural foods, a lot of which work together for a synergistic health boost. Probiotics are living organisms, so if you do choose to go with a pill or powdered form, make sure to use the supply as soon as you can and to refrigerate the package to keep them alive and potent for as long as possible.