Five probiotic foods your kids will love (and thank you for later)
Everywhere you look these days it seems like there is some advertisement for probiotics or probiotic foods. A probiotic is a live microorganism that can have health benefits. The marketplace can make things challenging to figure out what is best with all the choices we have out there these days. We know that our adult gut microbiomes (the ecosystem of trillions of bacteria that live within our digestive tracts) are fully developed somewhere between 2 and 3 years of age and that there are a number of different things that can influence the gut microbiome of a child. These things can include the mode of delivery (c-section versus vaginal delivery), duration of pregnancy (term vs. pre-term), antibiotics, environmental exposures, among many others (https://ukm.pure.elsevier.com/en/publications/gut-microbiota-in-early-life-and-its-influence-on-health-and-dise). Don’t fret! There is definitely hope! I’ve put together a list of my top 5 probiotic foods that you and your kids can enjoy regularly. This way your whole family can heal their gut together!
- Kefir. Kefir is basically a cultured dairy product. Although, there are numerous amounts of non-dairy kefir products available these days (like water kefir or coconut kefir). Just be wary of the sugar content in some of these products because it may not be worth the extra probiotics if it means you are going to get 25 grams of sugar with it! Kefir has a whole host of health benefits. Some of them include improved cholesterol metabolism, antimicrobial activity, tumor suppression, help with speed of wound healing, and improvements in asthma and allergy (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27199969). I can’t think of very many medicines that can do all of those things, can you? Kefir makes a good snack especially when you are on the go and if you want to go to the next level, you can make your kids a smoothie with kefir as the base and pump them full of other great antioxidants and phytonutrients at the same time! Their brains and microbiomes will definitely thank you!
- Fermented Pickles. My kids love pickles. The fermented ones may take some getting used to but they do make a delicious side note to a healthy meal. Make sure you get truly fermented pickles. If it isn’t refrigerated, that’s one clue that you are about to pick up junk food, not a fermented pickle. A recent study showed that three unique strains of a bacteria called Bacillus from a fermented pickle showed good potential as a probiotic. These probiotics showed protective effects against bad bacteria (pathogens) and also had anti-oxidant activity (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29729063). I bet you never thought you could boost your kids’ immune system with a pickle, did you?
- Cultured ghee. Everything is better with butter isn’t it? Seriously, ghee is a form of butter that has great health benefits. When it is grass fed and organic, it is packed with even more nutrients. When you get a cultured product, you have the added bonus of a probiotic food that your gut will welcome! We know that grass fed butter has a higher Omega 3 content and it is higher in vitamin K2 which is great for the bone health of your growing children. Additionally, there is a beneficial fat called CLA or conjugated linoleic acid in grass fed butter; this healthy fat can help boost immunity and may have anti-inflammatory effects. In fact, some types of CLA have been suggested to show anticarcinogenic (or anti-cancer), antiobese, and antidiabetic properties (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25434907). Mix that with some good bacteria and have a recipe for wellness! For those who may be concerned about dairy sensitivity or allergy, you may want to consider if this food is really for you, but keep in mind that ghee is a casein and whey free product and you may tolerate it unless you are extremely sensitive since very pure ghee is around 99% pure butter oil.
- Sauerkraut. This is another great one. It is pretty easy to make at home too. My kids love it. Since the name sauerkraut may not be the most appealing to a kid, we usually call it “shredded pickles” and since they love pickles, it’s almost a no brainer that they would like this one too! One of the main bacteria that is present in functional foods such as sauerkraut includes Lactobacillus. There is some data to show that these bacteria can degrade certain pesticides and can also provide antioxidant power, make the gut barrier stronger, and reduce inflammation (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26123785). Even if you are already eating organic and non-GMO foods, pesticides are in our environment, parks, and other places. I’ll take an extra dose of detox anytime!
- Fermented carrots. This is another personal favorite. Fermenting your own carrots at home is super fun for the kids and the whole family. It is also incredibly healthy and pretty easy to do. All you do is dissolve salt in water and put carrot sticks in the jar and pour the liquid over the carrots. Then cover the jar with an airtight lid until they are ready to be eaten. Just make sure to release any excess pressure in the jar on a daily basis. We all know that carrots are full of Vitamin A, antioxidants, fiber, minerals, and other key nutrients. We can take this awesome food and turn it into a superfood with fermentation! Oh, and remember that it can be fun to mix it up with colorful carrots. It will make eating the carrots more fun for the kids and also give them a variety of other health benefits. For example, purple carrots have more anthocyanin and extra Vitamin A. And don’t leave out the white carrots just because they aren’t colorful; their health benefits come from their fiber content. As always, it’s good to eat the rainbow!
Side dishes and snacks can definitely be healthy and full of nutrients and vitamins. Helping your children (and whole family) build a diverse ecosystem of bacteria within their intestinal tracts can have long-lasting health benefits. Your kids will definitely thank you for this when they get older!