Support your gut health the cheap & delicious way with these natural DIY probiotics!
You’ve probably heard some of the buzz in recent years about probiotics and the importance of good gut health for your overall health and well-being. Probiotics are live microorganisms that offer a range of health benefits. They can help improve gut health, boost the immune system, fight inflammation, and more. Probiotics are especially beneficial for those who have a digestive disorder or take antibiotics regularly, as these can destroy the good bacteria in the gut.
While this has led to a huge boom in commercial probiotic supplements, the truth is that you don’t have to spend a bunch of money on specially formulated probiotic supplements to reap the benefits of probiotics. In fact, most prepackaged probiotic supplements that you can buy at the store can’t hold a candle to the nutritional value of traditional probiotic foods!
Probiotic foods have been consumed by humans for thousands of years, and they are just as simple and safe to make at home as they have always been. There are many probiotic-rich foods that you can include in your diet, such as yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, and kefir. Not only is making your own DIY probiotics easy and cost-efficient, but they may also prove to be much more effective than even the highest-quality probiotic supplements you can buy at the store.
There are many benefits to making your own probiotics, including saving money and ensuring that you get high-quality, effective probiotics. When you make your own probiotics, you can control the ingredients and strains used, as well as the potency. This allows you to tailor the probiotics to your own needs and health goals.
Here are 5 healthy and delicious probiotic foods you can make at home for pennies on the dollar:
Yogurt is one of the few traditional fermented foods that we still eat regularly in America today (besides cheese, but most of that is pasteurized and does not contain probiotics anymore). While yogurt is easy to find in just about any grocery store in a rainbow of flavors and colors, it’s also packed with sugar and artificial colors, thickeners, and other additives.
Fortunately, yogurt is incredibly easy to make at home, and it’s often one of the first fermented foods that people try for themselves. Of course, the quality of yogurt (as with any food) depends on the quality of the ingredients, so be sure you use a high-quality active yogurt culture, and milk from pastured animals – preferably non-homogenized. While you can buy yogurt cultures online, you can also simply use plain store-bought yogurt to start your first batch – just make sure the label specifies “live and active cultures”. Then, just save some yogurt from each batch to start the next batch.
If you want a little sweetener in your yogurt, try it topped with a spoonful of homemade jam, a drizzle of honey, or my favorite – berries and a dash of maple syrup!
See this easy yogurt recipe for how to make it…
Kefir is a fermented beverage that can be made using milk (or non-dairy milk substitutes) or water. It typically contains more probiotic strains than yogurt (30-50, as compared with just 3-4 in yogurt), so it may provide more well-rounded digestive benefits. It is fairly simple to make, but you will need to procure some kefir starter (also called grains), which is easy to find online these days, or in health food stores. As with yogurt, once you’ve made your first batch of kefir, you can save some to use as a starter for the next batch.
Here is a basic dairy kefir recipe from TheGrowNetwork.com:
4 c. organic milk—whole, part, or skimmed
1 package milk kefir starter
1 quart-sized mason jar
Place milk starter in a clean 1-quart mason jar. Gently warm the milk in a ceramic, glass, or stainless steel pot on the stove until finger hot. Pour the milk into the jar. Stir to dissolve the powder with the handle of a clean, wooden spoon. Cover with a dish cloth or paper towel, secure with an elastic band, and let sit in a warm area of your kitchen (70-75°F) for 24 hours. (Colder temperatures mean it will take longer for your milk to culture, while warmer temperatures mean it will take less time.) After 24 hours, the kefir will have the consistency of buttermilk, or a thin, runny yogurt. It’s ready to drink! Add kefir to smoothies or use to make creamy salad dressings like ranch and dill.
Notes: 1) If you are making kefir with kefir grains (not the powdered starter), you’ll have to strain out the grains using a plastic (not metal) fine mesh sieve before consuming the liquid. 2) To make a fresh batch of kefir, place 1 cup of kefir in a 1-quart mason jar to use as your starter. Gently warm 3 cups milk and pour over the starter. Stir to combine with the handle of a wooden spoon. Cover with a dish cloth or paper towel, secure with an elastic band, and let sit in a warm place in your kitchen. Done in 24 hours!
You can follow basically the same process to make non-dairy kefir using nut milks. Just use 1 liter non-dairy milk (sunflower, hemp, walnut, almond, sesame, coconut, etc., 6 Tbsp. kefir grains, and 1 tsp. date paste (optional), and follow the directions above. Strain out the kefir grains using a non-metallic sieve or a nut milk bag. You can reuse the kefir grains to make up to 5-6 more batches of kefir.
Water kefir is a bit different, and you will need a starter specifically for making water kefir. It makes a fizzy soda-like beverage with many of the same probiotics as milk kefir, and you can add fruit or juice for flavoring purposes. You can find a recipe here: https://thegrownetwork.com/diy-probiotics/
Speaking of fermented beverages, you can’t forget about kombucha! While it was considered a “hippy” beverage in the past, these days, you can find kombucha in the refrigerated beverage case at most grocery stores. Like other probiotics, store-bought kombucha can be pricey and may contain high amounts of sugar. Making your own is SUPER easy – in fact, it really makes itself – once you get hold of the culture, which is called a SCOBY (which stands for Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast). You can find them online, but the cheapest way to get a SCOBY (if you can’t get one from a friend) is simply to grow one from a bottle of purchased kombucha. (Be sure it’s raw and unpasteurized.)
Growing a SCOBY:
Combine your kombucha with 1 cup of black or green tea and 1 TB organic sugar in a mason jar, and stir to dissolve the sugar. Cover with a dish towel or paper towel and secure with a rubber band. Let sit in a slightly warm location for 2-4 weeks undisturbed. When you see a firm, rubbery disc about 1/4 – 1/3″ thick floating on top, this is your SCOBY and it’s ready to use!
Here’s how to use your new SCOBY to make kombucha…
Once your initial ferment is done, you can add flavorings with fruits or herbs, and save your SCOBY to make another batch. They will continue to multiply indefinitely as long as you maintain them, so you can pass your extras on to others, or compost them.
Of course, we can’t talk about fermented foods without mentioning sauerkraut. One of the most well-known examples of probiotic foods, sauerkraut packs a punch of probiotics and is also very cheap to purchase (and even cheaper to grow yourself!).
Making your own sauerkraut is incredibly simple – all you need is cabbage, salt, and a mason jar – and it only takes a few days. If you want to get fancy with it, you can always use a pickling crock and add in some herbs and spices, but here’s a super-simple basic sauerkraut recipe to get you started without buying any special equipment.
5. Pickled Vegetables (or Kimchi)
Cabbage isn’t the only thing you can ferment; in fact, most vegetables make great fermented probiotic foods with very little fuss! Once you get the hang of it, feel free to try your hand at experimenting with different vegetables and flavors. (One of my new favorites is this naturally fermented salsa – trust me, it’s to die for! I may never make canned salsa again…)
Kimchi is a Korean ferment that usually includes cabbage, hot peppers, daikon radishes, ginger, garlic, and a few other ingredients, but you can make your own version using beets, carrots, turnips, and more. Other vegetables you can ferment include green beans, peppers, tomatoes, greens like mustard, etc., and even good old cucumbers.
Here is a good starter recipe for pickled vegetables – this is how how I got my start with DIY probiotics myself: https://newholisticliving.com/1/post/2014/03/a-recipe-for-good-health.html
Making your own DIY probiotics is not only easy and fun, but it yields delicious results! There is a whole world of tasty and healthy fermented foods out there – from naturally probiotic sodas to pickles, salsas, vinegars, and even naturally fermented adult beverages. Once you get started, you’ll find it’s easy to experiment and come up with your own delicious probiotic foods. Let me know how it goes!