Last week we explored some of the rationale for probiotics, something people often take in supplement form after ingesting antibiotics. Interestingly, probiotics means “for life” and antibiotics means “against life.”

Since probiotic (good bacteria) research is fairly new and since not all good bacteria have been thoroughly studied, it is unlikely that any one probiotic supplement will provide all of the good bacteria you need to completely restore the symbiotic balance of life in the digestive system.

Therefore, it might be best to turn to that 5,000-year-old practice of consuming fermented foods. Plus, growing your own good bacteria can be fun, rewarding and more economical than buying supplements.

Besides, you have to eat, so why not eat and replenish your good gut bugs at the same time.

Now, you may be thinking, “Fermented foods. Mmm. Yum. Sign me up!”

I find it difficult enough to get clients to eat more leafy greens let alone telling them, “While you’re at it, throw on a nice fermented dressing to aid digestion.”

Perhaps the “fermented foods” classification is not going to prompt people to run out and stock up on these microbial feasts, but they probably should.

Aside from preserving food when cold storage was not an option, fermented foods also serve as the first line of defense to fight off intruders trying to enter your body through the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract). Lactobacillus, found in fermented dairy products such as yogurt and kefir, may inhibit the growth and proliferation of pathogenic bacteria such as salmonella.

Sauerkraut is very popular in my home state of Pennsylvania. Pork and sauerkraut is a traditional New Year’s Day meal meant to bring good luck or at least smooth digestion to those who partake in this New Year’s feast.

Not a pork eater? Try tempeh instead. Tempeh is a perfect vegan protein. Made from soybeans, this fermented thin bean slab makes a great “meat” substitute. Soybeans are a complete protein, meaning they contain all of the essential amino acids in the right proportion. The fermentation process aids the digestion of an otherwise difficult to digest food.

Miso is a traditional Japanese seasoning produced by fermenting rice, barley and/or soybeans, with salt and a fungus. The most common miso is made with soybeans — great for adding flavor to any dish. However, miso should not be heated too high or all those great little microbes go bye-bye. Add miso to any broth based soup only after you have heated the soup and allowed it to cool.

Aid your digestion one meal at a time by trying some of my favorite fermented foods courtesy of Kathy Cummins and The Bauman School for Holistic Nutrition. For more information about fermentation visit www.wildfermentation.com/.

Elizabeth Brown is a registered dietitian and certified holistic chef specializing in weight management, sports nutrition, disease prevention and optimal health through whole foods. She can be reached at eat2liv@earthlink.net.

Miso Ginger Dressing

1, 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped

2 tbs. white miso (shiro)

3 tbs. tahini (sesame paste)

1/2 cup water

3 tbs. fresh lemon juice

Blend in a blender. Use to top leafy greens or any vegetable of your choice.

Tempeh Sausage

2 packages plain tempeh, steamed, whole

1 tsp. sage, marjoram, thyme, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder and herbs de provence

1/4 cup flour (your choice)

1/8 cup apple juice

3 tbs. oil (canola or olive)

2 tbs. tamari soy sauce

2 tbs. maple syrup

Steam the tempeh for 15 minutes. Cool and grate. Mix seasonings and flour in a separate bowl. Combine seasoned flour to grated tempeh. Blend with apple juice, oil and tamari. Adjust moisture. Press into thin patties. Sauté in a thin coating of canola oil. Brown on both sides. Enjoy!

Homemade Kraut

1 whole cabbage (green), thinly sliced or grated

1/2 cup dulse, soaked and sliced or 2 tbs. sea salt

(Variations: Red cabbage, carrots, ginger, beets, daikon, horseradish or garlic)

Distilled or filtered water to submerge cabbage

Save the outer leaves of the cabbage. Grate or thinly slice and chop cabbage. Pound with mallet or crush to release the juices. Place pounded cabbage in 1 quart size glass jar. Press down firmly on the cabbage. Cover with the outer leaves. Add water until cabbage is fully submerged. There should be no less than one inch from the top of the liquid to the jar lid. Cover the jar with cheese cloth and then loosely with a lid. Let sit for three to seven days at room temperature. Store in the refrigerator thereafter. Enjoy with any high protein meals to aid digestion.