Doing the right thing for health is often met with great enthusiasm, but falls over when it comes to practicality. With the best intentions we stock our cupboards with pretty jars of dried beans, our fridges with sauerkraut and kombucha, and vow to eat more raw veggies.
Two weeks later, the beans still look immaculate, the sauerkraut has been well and truly rejected by the family and the veggies look a bit worse for wear.
But we started with good intentions (and it’s the thought that counts right?!).
So I started looking around at easy way to improve my gut health, using products that I’d normally eat or places I’d normally shop.
And I came up with a few little gems, hidden in plain sight, right there in the dairy aisle of the supermarket.
Of course, my first find might be totally obvious and not secret-like at all. You may think you know yoghurt but do you really?
First to clarify. We’re talking plain, unsweetened yoghurt here. Not sugar-packed, full-of-colourings, doesn’t-even-taste-like-yoghurt, yoghurts.
What you didn’t know about yoghurt
My next secret is milk kefir.
Yes! If you're in New Zealand, courtesy of The Dairy Collective, you can pick up a bottle of milk kefir as you wander down the dairy aisle. No need to ferment the stuff at home (although that's great too, and cheaper).
Milk is fermented using the kefir “grain” bacteria. This means that milk kefir is virtually lactose free and
also the casein protein has been partially digested. So many people with lactose and non-anaphylactic casein intolerances can manage milk kefir without symptoms. Add it to that the host of beneficial bacteria, and it’s a great gut bacteria boost.
Kefir tastes like a runny yoghurt – slightly sour and ‘zingy’. Research from Turkey (where it’s a traditional drink) suggests that for people with constipation, building up to 500ml a day of milk kefir can ease your symptoms.
What to watch out for: Milk kefir can be much higher in bacteria than yoghurt. So if you’re experiencing digestive issues, like ibs, bloating, tummy pains, wind or reflux, then take it easy. Start with ¼ cup of kefir and slowly increase over a few weeks. Give the bacteria in your system a chance to adapt to the new bacteria you’re putting in.
Who’s it good for? If you want more of a bacteria boost to improve your gut and overall health, then milk kefir is a great place to start. Mix it in with a smoothie or with some plain yoghurt, or just have it as a drink. Try this recipe for a great way to start the day.
The final gut health boosting bonus in the dairy aisle are probiotic drinks.
The one that springs to mind for most people is Yakult. This little pot was my first real introduction to probiotics many (many) years ago. I loved the history of the product, in that it was developed in Japan and has little ‘yakult’ ladies who deliver the product to schools. Bless! What I really appreciated was that this was the first commercial probiotic supplement I came across that appealed to the mass market, and the bacteria were formulated to be able to withstand the stomach acid.
Now you’ll find a range of probiotic drinks, such as Activate from Meadow Fresh,
What to watch out for: These drinks can be a bit sweet. Sugar is often added to make them taste less sour (as fermented milk tastes sour). I believe our tastes need to change, and slowly reducing the sugar added to foods can help our tastebuds normalise. So choose a low sugar option where it’s available.
Who’s it good for: Although I’d always promote fermented foods over probiotic supplements, these drinks can be a good way of getting a real probiotic boost to the system – in sickness or boosting your body before winter. They can work especially well for kids where taking supplements, or stronger tasting fermented foods may be hard.
So there you go. No excuses! All these three are right there in the supermarket dairy aisle, just waiting to make your gut happy!
Unless you can’t tolerate dairy, but we’ll cover that another time!
Want to learn more about the basics to getting great gut health? Check out my free download
Katrina Pace, Dietitian
Gut bugs fascinate me. Diet and gut bugs intrigue me. Cooking is essential. Add them all together and you get a fairly interesting opinion on life! In my humble opinion.