What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are the “good bacteria” that live on and around us – some of which are naturally found in our bodies, and some of which can be attained by eating live, probiotic-rich foods. As defined by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), probiotics are “live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.”
What is a Microbiome?
Microbiome is the name for the community of bacteria that live in and around our bodies, helping to regulate our immune system, digestion and more. A healthy microbiome means a healthier you!
What are the Benefits of Eating Probiotics?
Our bodies are home to trillions of bacteria, and we’re learning more every day about how essential it is to our overall well-being to keep that community of bacteria (aka our microbiome) balanced. Things like poor diet, stress, medication, illness, aging and even traveling can throw our microbiome out of balance, but a probiotic-rich diet can help. Based on the most recent literature, we know that probiotic bacteria play a key role in:
Regulating the immune system
Boosting energy production and supporting a healthy metabolism
Assisting with the absorption of vitamins and minerals
Aiding in brain and mood functions
What’s the Difference Between Good Bacteria and Bad Bacteria?
Good bacteria (probiotics) are bacteria that, when encountered by our bodies, are beneficial to our health. Bad (or “pathogenic”) bacteria, on the other hand, can make us sick or even kill us. While probiotics are often associated with improved digestion, another huge benefit of these good bacteria is that they help protect us from bad bacteria, strengthening our immune systems and contributing to overall wellness.
Can You Have Too Many Probiotics?
Since our bodies normally are home to more than a trillion bacteria, it is difficult to get TOO many probiotics. That said, if you are just starting to add probiotic-rich fermented foods to your diet, we recommend you start slowly, with a serving or two per day, to let your body adjust. If you have an immune-related illness, we suggest checking with your doctor before making any major dietary changes.
Are the Probiotics From Supplements the Same as Those in Probiotic-Rich Foods?
Different supplements and fermented foods offer various strains of probiotics, which you can generally find on a product label. We prefer to get our daily dose of probiotics from naturally fermented foods, since fermentation creates many of the same strains of good bacteria naturally found in your gut, making live culture fermented foods one of the best (not to mention tastiest) sources of probiotics. If you take a supplement, you may get similar strains of probiotics, but you miss out on some of the other health benefits offered by the food itself (for example, cabbage is an excellent source of Vitamin C and Vitamin K, and is a good source of dietary fiber and various B vitamins, to name a few).
Are Some Food Sources of Probiotics Better Than Others?
We love that our products are suitable for many specialty diets, including vegans and vegetarians, paleo and Whole30, or anyone with the common allergens (gluten, lactose, nuts, soy, eggs, etc.).
What are Prebiotics?
Prebiotics are high-fiber, non-digestible carbohydrates. While your body can’t naturally digest them, prebiotics are the preferred “food” of the bacteria in your gut. So, eating prebiotic fibers in addition to probiotic-rich foods can help you maintain a healthy microbiome. Some sources of prebiotics include onions, garlic, jicama, leeks, asparagus, dandelion greens, sweet potatoes, and beans, lentils, chickpeas and other pulses.
What’s the Difference Between Fermentation and Pickling?
Pickling is the act of preserving a food in a brine (like salt or salt water) or acid (like vinegar). A fermented food, on the other hand, has been preserved by live bacteria cultures, which can produce a brine or acid as a byproduct of the fermentation process. Pickled foods don’t generally provide the live probiotics that most fermented foods offer.
Are all Fermented Foods Sources of Probiotics?
Not necessarily. While the fermentation process is carried out by live bacteria, for the food to be considered a source of probiotics, the bacteria must remain alive until the point of consumption in order to provide a health benefit. Processes like pasteurization and heat application can kill probiotics, so make sure to check food labels for language like “live, active cultures,” the strains of which should be listed as well.
What are Some Ways to Use Your Products?
Fermented foods go well with basically everything, in our opinion! Our Krauts and Fermented Vegetables are great on sandwiches, in wraps or quesadillas, and as a topping for things like scrambled eggs and omelets, deviled eggs, salads, served with bratwurst – or just straight out of the pouch. Likewise, our Gut Shots are great right out of the bottle, but you can also mix them into cocktails and smoothies, or turn your favorite flavor into salad dressing!
Can I Make My Own Sauerkraut, or Other Fermented Foods, and Still Get The Benefits of Probiotics?
Yes, you can! There are many great resources available, but some of our favorite books on the subject include Fermentation for Beginners, The Essential Book of Fermentation, and The Art of Fermentation.
Is it Okay to Consume Raw Kraut and Other Fermented Foods When Pregnant or Breastfeeding?
As with anything you eat or drink when pregnant, you should first get the go-ahead from your doctor. That said, all the studies that we have read on the subject agree that it is safe and healthy to eat raw sauerkraut and other fermented foods while pregnant; in fact, the probiotics, fiber, vitamins and other nutrients in our Kraut and Fermented Vegetables can offer a host of health benefits to you and baby.
Are Fermented Foods Safe for Infants and Toddlers?
It is always best to consult with your doctor before introducing new foods into your baby’s diet, but all the studies we’ve seen on the subject confirm that fermented foods are not just safe, but a healthy addition to the diets of infants and toddlers. Breast milk is actually full of beneficial bacteria that will make up your child’s gut bacteria population. Live culture foods can not only provide your baby with healthy, easily digestible nutrients and probiotics, but when introduced early, they can help familiarize your child’s palate so they will continue to love probiotic-rich foods later in life!
Do Your Products Contain Any Alcohol?
There actually is a very small amount of alcohol produced during lactic acid fermentation as a byproduct of the bacteria, but it is negligible. One study states that there is usually between 0.1% to 0.3% alcohol.
Are Your Products Gluten-Free?
Do Your Products Have to be Refrigerated?
The live cultures found in our Kraut and Gut Shot need food in order to stay alive. Refrigeration reduces the rate at which the live cultures metabolize residual sugars from the vegetables, extending the vibrancy and shelf-life considerably. So, to ensure the potency and get the maximum benefits of the probiotics, we strongly recommend refrigeration of those products (before and after opening).
How Long Will Your Products Last in the Refrigerator?
There is a best-by date on the pouch or bottle that you should refer to. Our products are good for a very long time when refrigerated, regardless of being opened or not, due to the fact that they are so naturally acidified from the fermentation process.
Will Cooking or Warming Up Your Products Negate the Probiotic Health Benefits?
While our products can be very tasty warmed up, you do risk killing off the live probiotic population at temperatures above 140 degrees F. That said, the veggies themselves offer a ton of other health benefits (not to mention flavor). For example, cabbage is an excellent source of Vitamin C and Vitamin K, and is a good source of dietary fiber and various B vitamins, to name a few. So, when adding Kraut to recipes that are prepared at high temps, we recommend also adding fresh (cold) product as a topping after the heating process to get the full benefit of the probiotics.
Will Freezing Your Products Kill the Probiotics?
Some strains of live bacteria will go into a dormant state if frozen, and will return to an active state after being thawed or eaten, while frozen storage can cause a reduction in the counts of some bacterial strains. Freezing will alter the great texture of our kraut and fermented vegetables and since the live cultures in our products will last a very long time in the refrigerator, we recommend refrigeration to get the full benefit of the probiotics.
Where Can I Buy Your Products? Are They Available Online?
We do not sell our products online, but they can be found nationwide, in natural foods stores and conventional grocery stores. Our Store Finder will help you locate the nearest store provider. If your favorite grocery store doesn’t sell our products, you can request that they do, using this Product Request Form! If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, you can also find us at local Farmers’ Markets.
Do You Use Starter Cultures?
We do not add any starter culture. Our products are naturally fermented, which means all the bacteria come to us on the vegetables.
What Probiotic Strains are Cultured in Your Products?
DUE TO THE NATURE OF WILD FERMENATION, THE BACTERIA STRAINS VARY BATCH TO BATCH. The following good bacterial strains are commonly found in our products:
Lactobacillus pentosus/plantarum, which has been shown to improve immune function.
Lactobacillus paraplantarum, which can help inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria.
Lactobacillus koreensis, which may have cholesterol reducing abilities.
Lactobacillus brevis, which can help keep good bacteria growing in your gut.
Lactobacillus hammesii, which can promote antifungal activity.