Probiotics are a vital element of the Candida Meal Plan, and it doesn’t matter if you’re taking supplements or eating probiotic foods. Probiotics, when consumed together with probiotic foods, can help to fill any nutritional gaps in your diet and should be taken regularly for the best chance at fighting Candida.
Probiotics are usually equated with dairy, but this food group is not the only one that contains strains of these helpful microbes. Other fermented foods, such as pickles and olives, also have high concentrations of probiotics.
If you’re new to fermented foods, be careful when starting out. Eating them in moderation will help you avoid developing histamine intolerance. Histamine intolerance is a condition where the body can’t break down histamines properly because there are too many of them. Fermented foods often contain high levels of histamines. This can lead to a range of symptoms, including headaches, itchy eyes, and gastrointestinal distress. For example, if you want to add kimchi or sauerkraut to your diet, start slowly by eating 1/3 cup a day. Gradually increase the amount you eat until you are up to a full cup per day over the course of a couple of weeks.
Some foods may taste strange at first, but your taste buds will eventually adjust and you might even come to enjoy these dishes.
To make your newly acquired gut bacteria more comfortable in your gut, try adding prebiotic foods as well. They will act as nourishment for the “good bacteria” and help them proliferate.
As mentioned in the Candida Meal Plan, not every dairy product is created equal. The flavored varieties loaded with sugar are obviously bad for you, but even the natural dairy products that don’t have any added sugars can contain enough sugar to feed Candida albicans.
Furthermore, you might be silently struggling with low-grade lactose intolerance and not even know it. The purpose of the Candida Meal Plan is to get rid of any possible intestinal inflammation triggers.
However, there are low-lactose and low-sugar options available that should be taken advantage of.
Yogurt is created by adding bacterial cultures to milk and allowing it to ferment. The fermentation process breaks down the lactose, making yogurt easier to digest for people with lactose intolerance. Although not entirely lactose-free, this milk alternative contains significantly less lactose than regular milk.
Like most commercial dairy, yogurt undergoes the process of pasteurization that should retain the live bacterial cultures. Raw and unpasteurized yogurt from farmers that you know and trust would be ideal, but these products can be difficult to find and are expensive. Check if the packaging mentions words like “probiotics” or “live active cultures.” Another way to see if the yogurt contains live active cultures is by checking the back label and the ingredients list. The ingredients list would either mention cultured pasteurized milk or individual strains of bacteria, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus (L.acidophilus) and Bifidobacteria bifidum (B.bifidum).
Any yogurt contains some level of sugar, which is reflected in the “Total sugars” figure on the label. However, avoid any added sugars, which are mentioned on a separate line on the label.
Plain, unsweetened yogurt is the best option, such as nonfat or low-fat greek yogurt.
Unlike other varieties, hard cheeses are very low in lactose. The fermentation process that is used to create hard cheeses breaks down most of the lactose, making it low in sugar.
Parmesan, Swiss, and Cheddar cheese are all examples of hard cheeses that are low in lactose.
A study published in 2019 showed that the Bifidobacterium mongoliense present in Parmesan cheese was resistant to stomach acid and could survive in the human gut (1).
Kefir is a fermented milk drink that originated in the Caucasus Mountains. It is made by adding kefir grains to milk, which ferment the lactose and create lactic acid. This makes kefir an excellent probiotic food, as it contains live bacteria that can help improve gut health.
It’s very low in lactose, so it’s often well-tolerated by people who are lactose-intolerant. Kefir is also a good source of protein and calcium. One glass of kefir contains about 10 grams of protein and fulfills 25% of daily calcium intake.
Kefir has an acquired taste that takes some getting used to, but it’s a delicious and healthy probiotic food that is worth trying. If you find it difficult to find it in your local store or it’s too expensive, you can try making your own kefir at home. All you need is milk and kefir grains. If you get hold of kefir live grains, they can be reused to make kefir many times over, as they will continuously grow and produce more. Just remember to use high-quality milk, such as grass-fed organic, whenever you can. In no time, you’ll be an expert in homemade kefir-making!
Sour cream is an excellent source of probiotics and is low in lactose and sugar content. If you purchase the full-fat version, be mindful of your saturated fat intake. It’s a healthy dip for a vegetable platter, great in a vegetable soup, or as an ingredient in your homemade ranch dressing.
Sour cream is teeming with live and active cultures, which are the same beneficial bacteria found in yogurt. These probiotics help to keep your gastrointestinal tract healthy by restoring the natural balance of good bacteria in your gut, aiding in digestion, boosting immunity, and reducing the so much-needed inflammation.
Sauerkraut is created through a process of fermentation that breaks down the sugars in cabbage into lactic acid. Lactic acid is a byproduct of fermentation or breaking down carbs for energy by gut bacteria. The lactic acid creates an acidic environment that is inhospitable for bad bacteria while promoting the growth of good bacteria. This beneficial effect on gut flora has made sauerkraut an excellent probiotic food.
Sauerkraut is easy to make and requires only 2 ingredients – cabbage and salt. Although sauerkraut is easy to make, commercially-produced versions rarely contain probiotics. This is because the fermentation process is often halted before it has a chance to produce lactic acid and other beneficial compounds. Sauerkraut is often times pasteurized to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. However, this process also kills live Lactobacillus bacteria and other beneficial microbes and vitamins that cabbage naturally contains. To ensure that you are buying the right kind of sauerkraut, look for words, such as “Naturally occurring Lactobacilli”, “Raw”, and “Unpasteurized”. It should pass the sniff test and smell crisp and clean, not rotten.
If you find it difficult to source good quality sauerkraut, make your own. Cut the cabbage into thin strips using a blender or grater. Season with salt to taste, making sure it is slightly saltier than normal. Crunch the cabbage so that it releases its juices. Transfer to a container and cover with a lid or plate, leaving it slightly open. The lid shouldn’t fit snugly on the jar; you want to allow natural gasses to escape. Check it once a day and poke it with a fork if needed to release any built-up gases. Your sauerkraut should be ready in around 3-4 days, depending on your room temperature.
Remember to start eating small amounts of sauerkraut and gradually increase the amount you eat as your gut adjusts to the new probiotic food. If you experience any gas or bloating, reduce the amount you are eating.
Just like sauekraut, pickles undergo a similar fermentation process to become a probiotic food. The lactic acid gives pickles their sour taste and also helps to preserve them.
There are two types of pickles: half-sour and full-sour. Half-sours have been in fermentation for a few days and are not fully fermented, while full-sours continue the process for several weeks and are fully fermented.
Choosing pickles requires the same diligence as choosing sauerkraut. You want to make sure that they have no vinegar or citric acid added. Look for words such as “lacto-fermented” or check the ingredients label to make sure it doesn’t have vinegar, citric acid, or any added colorings.
If you have trouble finding fermented pickles, try inquiring at your local deli to see if they sell pickles made using the traditional fermentation method.
Kimchi is a probiotic that originates from Korea. It’s made of fermented cabbage and other vegetables that are blended with spices, resulting in its one-of-a-kind taste which is frequently spicy. Instead of traditional cabbage, kimchi usually uses Napa cabbage. Other ingredients include radishes, scallions, garlic, ginger, and chili pepper flakes.
Kimchi makes for a great side dish, just like sauerkraut and pickles, but it’s so much more than that. While sauerkraut and pickles are only fermented, kimchi is both fermented and seasoned. This means that kimchi has probiotic benefits like promoting a healthy gut, as well as the added flavor benefits from the spices used. It’s always good to have a few different probiotic foods on hand and change them up.
Oftentimes, kimchi tends to be an expensive item sold in stores because it’s considered a novelty. However, with only a handful of spices bought for the explicit purpose of making kimchi, you can save money in the long run by making your own batches at home.
Add olives to your probiotic food list for a pop of flavor in salads or as a side dish. Not only do they contain gut-friendly Lactobacillus bacteria, but they also have Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids, and polyphenols, which are antioxidants that can help protect cells from damage.
Kalamata olives have the highest levels of polyphenols, followed by Greek-style naturally black olives, and Spanish-style green olives (2).
Unfortunately, most store-bought olives do not contain probiotics due to rapid curing techniques and pasteurization, which is the very reason you would purchase these olives. To streamline the fermentation process, many brands rely on lab-cultured bacteria and additives like lye and ferrous gluconate solution. These olives are often packed in containers with a new brine that contains acidifying agents like citric acid or vinegar (any type), plus preservatives like benzoate or sorbate.
Though pasteurization is necessary to stop bacteria and mold from developing during transfers, it also eliminates probiotics at higher temperatures.
If you are looking for a probiotic-rich olives, your best bet is to find an artisanal brand that uses traditional curing methods like salt packing, water baths, and air drying. You can also make them yourself but it’s a time-consuming process. If you are ready for a challenge, here is the recipe.
Miso is an ancient probiotic-rich food, with origins in Japan. It is a fermented paste made from soybeans and grains. For this, soybeans are fermented with “Koji”, produced from Aspergillus oryzae which is a mold strain. The final product contains a variety of probiotic strains of Bacillus species and Lactococcus. Bacillus strains are the “good gut bacteria”, while Lactococcus species kill harmful bacteria (3).
Miso is also a great source of vitamins and minerals, including zinc, copper, magnesium, vitamins B6 and K, and manganese. These nutrients are essential for proper bodily functions, including cell growth and metabolism. Additionally, miso contains antioxidants that help fight off free radicals in the body which can lead to chronic diseases.
Its unique flavor and texture make it popular in Asian cuisine, but its immense health benefits make it beneficial to people of all backgrounds. Miso is a versatile ingredient and can be used in soups, sauces, marinades, and dressings.
Natto is a traditional Japanese food made from fermented soybeans. To make it, cooked yellow soybeans are fermented with Bacillus subtilis. It has a unique sticky texture and strong, distinctive odor which may take some getting used to, but the health benefits of natto make it well worth the effort.
Natto is not only a probiotic powerhouse, but it also contains many essential vitamins and minerals (4).
Natto is naturally high in vitamin K2, which helps to reduce inflammation and improve bone health health. In fact, it contains more than 100 times as much vitamin K2 compared to various kinds of cheese (5).
A study containing 117 premenopausal volunteers indicated that Natto may play a preventive role against osteoporosis and improve bone health in people, who have a low-affinity receptor for vitamin D.
It also contains nattokinase, a type of enzyme that helps to reduce blood clots and improve cardiovascular health. Studies have shown that consuming natto may help dissolve blot clots, lower cholesterol levels and improve the overall functioning of the immune system (6).
Natto has Genistein, an isoflavone with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Not only does it help protect cells from damage, but Genistein may also prevent some types of cancer, such as breast cancer (7)(8).
Although Natto contains probiotics, researchers have not yet determined how much of an effect it has on human gastrointestinal flora (9).
Despite that, natto still holds its superfood title because of all the other potential health benefits it has to offer. That’s why it’s worth incorporating this food into your diet.
Kombucha is a fermented drink made from black tea and sugar and has been popular throughout many cultures for centuries. It’s reported to have originated in Northeast China around 220 BC. The sugar and tea mixture ferments with a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) over the course of several days. This fermentation process creates an effervescent beverage that contains about 0.5% ABV alcohol content.
Modern-day kombucha is touted for its purported probiotic health benefits, backed by scientific evidence on paper and during animal studies. However, there are no human studies on the effects of kombucha on gastrointestinal health and microbiota (10).
Kombucha is a rich source of acetic acid (vinegar) and lactic acid, which are both associated with improved digestion when consumed in small amounts. Acetic acid is produced by the fermentation process and helps regulate the pH level of the gut microbiome. Kombucha’s lactic acid content has been linked to improved digestion and absorption of nutrients, as well as increased production of beneficial bacteria in the intestines. This is due to the fact that lactic acid helps increase the production of B vitamins, which are important for healthy digestion.
With table sugar serving as the main ingredient in kombucha-making, it’s important to limit kombucha intake, especially at the beginning of the Candida Meal Plan. Always check the back labels of kombucha bottles before purchasing, as some brands add extra sugar or flavoring to their drinks.
Another kombucha-variant, Kvass is a popular beverage that has been around for centuries in Eastern Europe. It is traditionally made from fermented rye bread. In the United States, kvass is more associated with beet juice, which provides a more easily accessible source of sugar to facilitate fermentation. Kvass uses lacto-fermentation that relies on natural sugars present in beets.
Either kvass variation has the benefits of probiotics, along with vitamins B1, B2, and B12, as well as vitamin C, giving it some added nutritional value. The traditional version of kvass is a low-alcohol beverage with a mildly savory and salty flavor.
Kvass is particularly beneficial for those with gut imbalances, as its probiotic properties can help restore the balance in the digestive tract.