Why You Can Toss the Probiotic Supplements and Reach For the Fermented Foods

Updated: Jul 13

When was the last time you had sauerkraut? How about kimchi? Brined veggies? Apple cider vinegar?

If your response is sometime in the last 5 days- Woohoo!!! Go you!

If it's been months, you need to read this...

Do you know what all of these foods have in common???

They are high quality fermented foods! Pat yourself on the back if that's what you guessed. I'm giving you long distance spirit fingers.

You've probably heard by now that probiotics are good for you gut. But time after time as I introduce the concept of probiotics to my clients, I'm often met with, "Well, I take a probiotic supplement already."

While probiotic supplements might be helpful (we still need more data to know how they are really impacting our gut and some of us really shouldn't be on a probiotic supplement) fermented foods is actually the best place to start to get probiotic bacteria in your gut.

Here are three reasons you should choose fermented foods over probiotic supplements, and the best sources of these probiotic powerhouses!

1) Probiotic Supplements Are Iffy

Have you ever bought a crystal and put it in a particular room in a particular location in hopes that it would give you some good juju? Or maybe taken the same neck cream for a few years, crossing your fingers that you won't get wrinkles as you approach middle age?

Well, that's kinda the same thing as taking a probiotic supplement. You are taking something that has billions of bacteria and hoping that it will colonize in your gut properly, leaving you with a healthy, flourishing microbiome.

Unfortunately, as we have only just started learning about the gut over the last handful of decades, and probiotic supplements are even newer, we really don't have great long term data and information on them. We don't know exactly how effective they are and if they are even properly absorbed in our body.

This, coupled with the fact that every supplement is different, every single body is different, and the way each supplement interacts with each body is different, probiotic supplements are still kinda a wild card.

I personally do take a probiotic supplement that feels good to my body, but I think of it as an insurance policy. It's there if I have a few days that I don't eat my fermented food, hoping that it steps up when my diet is lacking.

Fermented food on the other hand has been around since the beginning of time and we DO know how food acts in the body. When we consume fermented foods, we know we are getting good bacteria into our body in a way our body recognizes and knows how to work with.

2) Fermented Foods Offer Additional Nutrients

The thing I love most about healthy fermented foods is the added benefits you get from the food. I'm in it for more than just the probiotic bacteria.

Take sauerkraut. We take cabbage, an already incredibly healthy cruciferous super food (one of the healthiest foods in the world, IMO) that has tons of Vitamin A, C, folate, potassium, and a variety of other nutrients, antioxidants to reduce inflammation, and is loaded with both soluble and insoluble fiber, and make it 100x healthier by fermenting it. This fermentation process keeps all of the above health properties while growing billions of probiotic bacteria that will populate your gut, helping it to run properly.

With any (properly) fermented foods, you get the benefits of the probiotic bacteria that lives in it along with the benefits of the food that is being fermented.

3) Fermented Foods Help You Poop

This could probably also be said about probiotic supplements if they work the way we hope they do, but fermented foods is where it's at for your poops.

Some fermented foods have fiber which we know is imperative for digestion. Upping your fermented food consumption to 1-2 servings a day could be increasing your fiber consumption as well. (See which fermented foods have fiber below).

Either sources (supplements or fermented foods) should be supporting healthy digestion. Our gut needs trillions of healthy bacteria for it to work properly. If it is getting that good bacteria from fermented foods and fiber rich plants, our gut will be strong and healthy. It will take in nutrients and absorb them in the small intestine and easily push our food through to the large intestine where it is broken down even more and then pooped out.

If our gut doesn't' have healthy bacteria from fermented foods, plants, and even probiotic supplements, it won't be as efficient at pooping, leaving you bloated and constipated.

So what are the best fermented foods to consume??

Here is a list of my favorites and a list of sources that aren't quite as beneficial but could be good for diversity:

Best Fermented Foods

  • Raw Sauerkraut (should be found in refrigerator section or made by you)- *Contains fiber

  • Kimchi- *Contains fiber

  • Brined Vegetables (pickles, beets, carrots, etc.)- *Contains fiber

  • Apple Cider Vinegar (should have "the mother")

  • Full Fat Greek Yogurt, plain (if your body digests dairy well)

Not As Great Fermented Foods (but good to incorporate occasionally)

  • Homemade Sourdough Bread- *Contains some fiber

  • Kombucha (look for a source that has less sugar)

  • Wine (drink sparingly ;))

  • Tempeh/Tofu/Miso (make sure they are organic sources)- *Can contain fiber

If you are interested in incorporating more fermented foods in your routine but don't know where to start, join me on Wednesday, July 21st at 6:00pm PST for my virtual Fermented Foods Workshop!

We will be making sauerkraut, pickles (brined veggies) and learning all about the benefits and sources of fermented foods. All you will need is some cabbage, cucumbers, salt, and glass jars! (An email with the information on the workshop and what you need will be sent once you sign up.) You will also have time to ask all the fermented foods questions you have and I will be sharing some of my favorite fermented food brands for the weeks that you don't have the time to ferment on your own.

Click here to reserve your spot. Tickets are free to Northwest Health Coaching clients (past and current) and BGGH students, $25 for anyone else!

If you can't make that workshop time, sign up anyways and receive the recording. You can even submit questions ahead of time that I will answer in the workshop, even if you aren't there!

I hope this has inspired you to get in more fermented foods, and maybe even try your hand at making your own! Once you have incorporated fermented foods into your routine, you will wonder how your ever went without.