The process of fermentation, also known as culturing, creates probiotic-rich cultured food and has been used for thousands of years. In the past, our food contained much more good probiotic bacteria than our food does today, and this lack of good bacteria in our diets can decrease gut health, nutrient absorption, and overall health.
Probiotics help support healthy digestion and weight, metabolic and immune health, nutrient assimilation, as well as the production of B vitamins and certain enzymes. It’s time to start living the diverse cultured life once again with probiotic-rich foods like kefir (which means “feel good” in Turkish), yogurt, fermented cheeses, cultured cream, fermented vegetables and more.
And speaking of kefir…back in 1908 Elie Metchnikoff, known as the “Father of Probiotics,” wrote in his book The Extension of Life that the secret to extraordinary health and longevity found among those in the Russian Caucasus Mountains was kefir—the cultured milk consumed by the Bulgarian people living there.
Kefir is made by fermented milk with kefir grains, which are a mass of good bacteria (probiotics) and yeasts. Kefir is a healthy drink because it contains a variety of probiotics, yeasts, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. For example, one form of wild kefir grains contains 22 different probiotic strains. Wow!
Likewise, the type of yogurt used by the people of the Caucasus mountains, also known as Bulgarians, contains 10 lactic-acid producing bacteria (probiotics). What may be even better news is that these probiotics—including one called Lactobacillus bulgaricus noted by Metchnikoff and used by the Caucasus mountain people—are still available today.
Now that’s a tradition worth handing down!
There’s plenty of power in having a variety of probiotics, too. As many as 500 species of bacteria reside in your digestive system—some good, some bad—with your diet and lifestyle deciding if the good bacteria or the bad bacteria win out. In short, good bacteria can help crowd out the bad bacteria—so the more, the merrier!
Interestingly, as people age, there is generally a decrease in the healthy bacteria as well as the diversity of good bacteria strains, so probiotic amount and diversity may become increasingly important as time goes on.
The truth is that there are literally hundreds of healthy probiotics with diverse health benefits, so be sure you’re culturally diverse by taking in an array of probiotics—including those from kefir and yogurt.