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Gut health: part 2

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By Jacquelin Huang

What you put in your body is just as important, if not more important, than what you put on your skin. Now comes the fun part - eating! Part 2 of our gut health blog series introduces: probiotics. Probiotics are the actual living organisms that live in your digestive track and make up your gut flora. 

Credit: Nutrition Diva

Probiotics are best found in fermented foods with live, active cultures of bacteria. Make sure that these foods are not pasteurised, which can kill the good bacteria.

1. Yogurt

When we think about gut health, the first thing that comes to mind is often yogurt! It's the most accessible form of probiotic that you can find in every supermarket with strains of Lactobacillus bulgaricus culture in the mix. However, with so many flavours and options, it can be overwhelming to choose the option best for your gut health. According to Harvard Medical School, choose plain yogurts with simple ingredients and zero added sugar, something like Greek yogurt will be an ideal choice. With fewer ingredients, it is more likely that the yogurt will be free from synthetic flavouring and preservatives, also, less sugar = fewer calories!

We suggest buying plain yoghurt and mixing it up with coconut nectar (vegan honey!)  and mashed berries!

Credit: Tastemade UK

2. Kefir

Kefir is a less known cultured milk drink that is becoming increasingly popular. It tastes similar to yogurt but in terms of its probiotic cultures, it is an amped up, super-powered version of yogurt containing up to 50 strains of healthy bacteria (wow!), compared to about only 5 strains in regular yogurt. It has had a long history, originating from Europe about a thousand years ago and traditionally made with cow, goat or sheep's milk. Kefir is harder to find than most yogurt since most supermarkets do not carry them. However, there are many brewers out there that offer a variety of kefir products.

Miss Kefir is a local brand that specialises in kefir products. They sell a variety of kefir drinks with unique flavours such as acai and cinnamon spice. In fact, their kefir products are fermented right here in Singapore in small batches so you know its freshly made and full of lively gut bacteria! 

3. Kombucha

Kombucha is extremely popular among home brewers nowadays due to how easy it is to make it at home, it's also so much cheaper than bottled ones! It's basically sweetened tea that is fermented with a SCOBY, which stands for a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. Even though its probiotic benefits are not scientifically confirmed yet, the SCOBY contains several lactic acid bacteria strains that have may have probiotic function. Nonetheless, they are super fun to make and so delicious! As a home brewer of Kombucha myself, here's the link to another blog post I wrote that will help you get started.

Even though you can make kombucha at home, it can be troublesome especially if you travel frequently and lack space at home. Also, it can smell pretty vinegary and some people can't stand that! Bottled kombucha is equally great. 

Credit: Teapulse

Teapulse is a local kombucha brand that brews and bottles kombucha right here is Singapore. They have islandwide delivery services now to bring kombucha to your doorstep, but make sure to check out their on-site location, the first kombucha bar in Singapore when circuit breaker is over to try their kombucha-based bubble teas! What an interesting combination!

Remedy Kombucha is an Australia-made kombucha that is are vegan, organic and has no sugar added. They are also halal-certified. Most importantly, they are not pasteurized and you may even find little blobs of SCOBY in their bottles, meaning the bacteria culture in their drinks are alive and flourishing - the way it should be to benefit your gut health! You can find Remedy kombucha easily in Singapore, at grocer Little Farms, their online website as well as their many stockists like popular cafes The Providore and Shake Farm - which offer delivery on Grabfood this circuit breaker so you can get your kombucha  fix even in quarantine.

4. Kimchi

Kimchi is a staple in Korean cuisine, spicy, delicious and healthy! It has a long history and have existed for thousands of years! As a fermented product, it contains probiotic strains of bacteria that is good for your gut flora as well. In fact, in this study, South Korean researchers managed to isolate 900 strands of lactic acid bacteria from kimchi! Also, researchers found that these bacteria strains have high levels of resistance against low pH and bile acids, which means they are able to survive the highly destructive acidic environment of your stomach and actually make it to your intestines alive to build gut flora!

Making Kimchi is a long process that takes a few weeks which requires brining, flavouring and fermenting vegetables, but it's not difficult! You can attempt making your own kimchi with this video by Maangchi, my favourite korean imo <3 and food youtuber. Also, you can get creative when making kimchi as well, napa cabbage is the default, but kimchi-ed spring onions, radish, cucumbers...whatever you have will be super delicious too! The kimchi fermenting paste is so versatile.

Kimchi on its own is the perfect palate cleanser during a meal that offers brightness and freshness to each bite! But there are also many creative recipes out there for when kimchi alone gets boring. A kimchi grilled cheese sandwich is a dish I've tried that is surprisingly good!

5. Miso

I'm sure we've all have miso soup before, made from fermented soy bean paste and is also a traditional Japanese dish! Miso is made with fermentation starter koji - which is a rice innoculated with bacterial yeast, which is what powers the fermentation process of miso to produce more healthy bacteria. Miso soup is super easy to make with fish broth and miso paste, which you can easily buy from supermarkets or even make it yourself! Brad Leone, the king of fermentation on youtube, shares how to easily make miso paste yourself here.

However, an important point to remember while cooking with miso is that you cannot boil miso because this will burn and kill all the healthy bacteria! When cooking miso soup, Japanese recipes will remind you to turn off the heat first, then stir in the miso paste last so you can reap the benefits of all that healthy probiotic bacteria.

Take note that these are probiotic foods which supply your gut with a diversity of healthy bacteria. After the bacteria gets there, prebiotic food are important in keeping the bacteria thriving and healthy. Prebiotics are foods that supply the bacteria in your gut with carbohydrates, and come in the form of vegetables like onions, garlic, leek and bananas. Drinking lots of kombucha and eating lots of kimchi is not enough! You have to couple it with a healthy diet rich in prebiotics as well :) Hopefully, you now have a better idea of what food to incorporate into your diet to better build the health and diversity of all the bacteria in your gut. With a healthy gut, you will glow on the inside and glow on the outside even more!

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