Your gut microbiome–the vast population of microorganisms that call your digestive tract home–plays a key role in supporting the health of your whole body; do your gut microbiome a favor and eat foods that support it right back. Foods rich in probiotics contain good bacterial strains that help bring balance and good health to your microbiome, which can lead to better digestion, a more robust immune system, clearer skin and more.
Since probiotics are important for all members of your family, choosing probiotic-rich recipes that everyone can eat–and that are fast and easy to prepare–is a great step towards supporting your entire family’s health. Adding a probiotic supplement to your daily routine also helps. The following eight recipes are all packed with probiotics yet are still quick and simple to make. Best of all, they’re delicious, ensuring that your entire family will reap their probiotic benefits!
Sometimes all there’s time for in the morning is a smoothie. Luckily, smoothies can actually be a wonderful source of nutrients–if you choose the right ingredients for your family’s liquid breakfast. This smoothie uses buttermilk as its base, an excellent source for certain key strains of probiotics. (Keep in mind that while traditional buttermilk is fermented, which causes beneficial bacterial strains to naturally occur, most commercially available buttermilk now goes through the pasteurization process that kills this naturally-occurring bacteria; however, Lactobacillus acidophilus is reintroduced after pasteurization, giving buttermilk its sour, tangy taste and providing you with all of the health benefits.)
Blueberry muffins are one of the all-time classic breakfast treats, loved by all members of the family. This version uses kefir, a cultured dairy drink that’s similar to yogurt in taste. Like all fermented dairy products, kefir has naturally-occurring probiotics–but kefir boasts even more probiotic strains than your typical yogurt. Studies suggest that kefir contains as many as 30 different strains of good bacteria, as compared to yogurt’s four to six strains. As an added bonus, the addition of kefir helps make these muffins particularly moist and fluffy!
Yogurt is certainly the most popular source of naturally-occurring probiotics, and for good reason: it’s a yummy and versatile food, perfect for breakfast or a snack. Unfortunately, many store-bought yogurts–even those that are advertised as a good source of probiotics–might not contain enough viable strains to be effective. Instead of reaching for a premade carton of yogurt, then, why not make your own? This version using coconut milk is surprisingly easy to make and requires just four ingredients. For added benefits, top your family’s coconut milk yogurt with banana and oats; besides being delicious, both are excellent sources of prebiotics, a key type of dietary fiber that the good bacteria in your gut use as a food source. Together, this yogurt with banana and oats packs a one-two punch!
Perhaps no meal is as family-friendly and satisfying as hot dogs. While not always regarded as the healthiest meal, what you put on your family’s hot dogs can go a long way in boosting their positive impact. Sauerkraut, a classic ballpark hot dog topping, is a kind of fermented cabbage that comes packed with probiotics. In fact, one cup of sauerkraut contains as much as 3 billion colony-forming units (CFUs), and a single serving of this pickled treat is estimated to have as many as 28 different beneficial bacteria strains. Add in onions and you’ll make your hot dogs even more gut friendly. Like oats and bananas, onions are an excellent source of prebiotics; about a tenth of an onion’s fiber content is made of inulin, an important prebiotic that promotes a balanced gut microbiome.
Whether as part of a meal or the main attraction, soup is a wonderful comfort food–but this miso soup will do more than comfort your mind. Made of cooked soybeans combined with water and koji and then fermented, miso is a thick paste known for providing delicious umami flavor. The fermentation process generates a number of beneficial probiotic strains, meaning that it can impart as much health benefit for your gut as it can flavor. Keep in mind that miso is commonly available in two forms: pasteurized and unpasteurized. Since the pasteurization process kills much of the naturally-occurring probiotics, you’ll want to choose an unpasteurized variety–and you’ll want to add the miso into your soup only after the soup has been taken off the heat, as adding it directly to boiling water can kill the good bacteria as well.
Fried rice is the epitome of quick and easy, and the addition of kimchi to this version makes it a probiotic powerhouse. While there are many varieties of kimchi out there (at least 300!), using any type of kimchi can provide gut microbiome benefits thanks to the fermentation process used to make it. Studies have found that kimchi contains significant amounts of Lactobacillus plantarum, a key microorganism that can help stimulate immune system function. As a bonus, kimchi is thought to have antimicrobial properties that can help fight the bad bacteria in your gut!
Spaghetti Bolognese is another constant crowd pleaser, but by replacing the traditional meat in the sauce with tempeh–a fermented soy dish often used as a meat substitute–you can turn this delicious meal into a gut pleasing one as well. While bean-based tempeh is available, opt for a soy-based version if possible; one study found that soy tempeh was better than bean-based tempeh when it came to promoting the growth of Bifidobacterium, a key probiotic strain that provides a whole host of health benefits.
Of course, the best part of any meal is dessert–but even here, you can whip up something that your family will enjoy that’s still packed with probiotics. This rich chocolate pudding uses dark chocolate, which studies have found can increase the numbers of key Lactobacilli and Bidifobacteria strains found in the gut (while simultaneously decreasing damaging bacterial strains such as clostridia). Incredibly, dark chocolate also acts as a prebiotic; dark chocolate’s high content of flavanols, a type of antioxidant, appear to provide an important boost to beneficial microorganisms in the digestive tract.
Keep in mind that to fully take advantage of dark chocolate’s gut-benefitting powers, you should use dark chocolate and cocoa powder that contain at least 70 percent cocoa.
Supporting your family’s gut health is not just about adding probiotic supplements to their diet to ensure they get the strains they need. It is also involves exploring various recipes featuring probiotic foods until you find one that your family can’t live without. Keep exploring and you are sure to find one that works.