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Don’t Fear The Good Bacteria

May 30, 2009
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Last week, when I posted an entire day of eats, many of you commented or emailed me about my morning mug of miso broth:

My fermented beverage of choice.

My fermented beverage of choice.

This is so easy to make: 1 TBSP of miso paste (available from your local health food store or Asian market) stirred into 16 ounces of hot water (NOT boiling).  That’s it.  

Now, why do I drink it?  Well, there are several reasons.  First off, our bodies require a certain level of flora, or healthy bacteria.  The healthy bacteria in the gut aids in food digestion, strengthens your body’s immune response, works against harmful bacteria, and manufactures certain nutrients our bodies need.   What destroys our good bacteria?  Unhealthy diets (think processed foods & sugar), chronic illness, birth control pills, and antibiotics to name just a few.  Guess who grew up eating sugar and taking antibiotics constantly?  Me!  A lack of flora in the body can lead to digestive problems, constipation, yeast infections, food allergies, and a compromised immune system.  Doesn’t sound like much fun, does it?  No worries.  There are several ways to restore the good stuff. 🙂 

These days, it seems Contains Probiotics labels can be found on everything from cereals to pizzas. However, I prefer more natural sources like fermented foods. Unfortunately, pasteurization has eliminated much of the flora found in the modern day diet, but fermented foods are a wonderful source. I began drinking miso broth after I gave up dairy.  Yogurt & kefir used to be my go-to fermented foods, but not anymore.   Fermented vegetables are also a great source of good bacteria…and they’re raw.  Woo-hoo, bonus!  Sauerkraut and kimchi (pickled cabbage) are two good options.  Just make sure not to buy sauerkraut that has been fermented and then pasteurized.  Another option is kombucha, a fermented tea drink, and if I could afford them, I would drink one everyday.  Love GT’s Divine Grape flavor!

Another favorite fermented food of mine?

Tempeh with peanut butter.

Tempeh with nut butter.

Tempeh is fermented soy beans pressed into a block or cake.  Now, I’m not a fan of processed soy products as they irritate my stomach, but fermented soy foods like tempeh and miso don’t seem to bother me.  Try some with a little a nut butter a la Gliding Calm.  It makes for a great afternoon snack and much cheaper than a protein bar!

What about probiotic supplements?  Well, since I take antibiotics on occasion, I do take the following probiotic by Innate Response everyday:

My daily dose of flora.

My daily dose of flora.

If you are interested in taking a probiotic, talk to your doctor first (standard disclaimer :)) and make sure to look for one that is harvested from organic vegetable sources and contains live strains of the whole family of Lactobacilli bacteria.  Your local health food store should be able to help you find a good brand.  Keep in mind that most probiotics should be stored in the refrigerator and taken on an empty stomach.

If you’re interested in reading more about fermented foods, check out Seth Robert’s blog.  He’s got some interesting ideas regarding various cultures around the world and the fermented foods they eat, and I really think he’s onto something.

CD’s Random Comment of the Day:

Is that miso broth or the urine sample your doctor requested?  

Be sure to check back Monday for another chia seed giveaway!

46 Comments leave one →
  1. May 30, 2009 1:22 pm

    Great post heather! Being a former microbiologist I get annoyed when people label all bacteria as bad or dirty, when without them, our immune system wouldn’t function, our GI tract would not work properly, etc.

  2. May 30, 2009 1:36 pm

    I lovelovelove miso! My problem is I get stymied by all the choices at my health-foods store! Not only is there paste and powdered but red, white, rice, wheat, etc. Any idea what the “healthiest” kind is or are they about the same? And tempeh is awesome. One of the few kinds of soy that doesn’t give me horrible gas!

  3. May 30, 2009 1:38 pm

    thanks for all the info, heather! i was wondering about your miso broth, too, when i saw it last week. and i love tempeh with nut butter!

  4. May 30, 2009 2:04 pm

    I love reading your blog- 1. cause you’re awesome, 2. I feel like I’m always learning something!! I def grew up always on antibiotics (I was a kid with a constant ear, nose and throat infection). Maybe I should consider taking in some of this? Thanks for the info Heather. Hope you and that little cutie CD are having a great weekend. Oh and you and the dogs are ALWAYS welcome at our house!

  5. May 30, 2009 2:06 pm

    I’ve always wondered why so many people on macrobiotic diets drink miso broth for breakfast… now I know!! I actually really like that idea. I have a lot of digestive issues, I should give it a try to see if it helps. How long do you usually wait until you eat solid food? My stomach is typically growling by the time I open my eyes, I need to eat a huge meal right away!

  6. May 30, 2009 2:26 pm

    I totally agree with you. Not all bacteria is bad for you! My little brothers hardly get sick…their secret? DIRT! They eat dirt occasionally and while I wouldn’t do it myself, it’s not like it’s going to kill you if it happens!

    What brand of tempeh do you buy?

  7. May 30, 2009 2:34 pm

    ha, urine sample 🙂

    I hope you’re having a wonderful weekend!

  8. May 30, 2009 2:38 pm

    miso soup is my favorite part about sushi restaurants! its so delicious! also, if you like Kombucha but find its too expensive, try brewing your own! my dad decided one day he wanted to try, and it actually isn’t that difficult, takes about an hour a week, and he makes about 6 pints a week with it.

  9. homegirlcaneat permalink
    May 30, 2009 2:42 pm

    Yo I loved this post! You are seriously so inspiring with your healthfulness! A great miso combo is a baked sweet potato with some miso paste on top with scallions! SO GOOD

  10. May 30, 2009 2:58 pm

    had no idea that miso was filled with that. how interesting. good to know.

  11. May 30, 2009 3:48 pm

    Miso is so delicious. I was drinking it a few days a week in the morning months ago and quit for some reason (well, I ran out of miso and guess I never replaced it!) This post reinforced the fact that I need to get back on the bandwagon, since I used to eat tons of sugar, take antibiotics a lot (chronic UTIs, just like you) and a former birth control taker, I could use it.

    I’ve finally come around to the Kombucha train, but goodness, the price is ridiculous! Now I treat myself to one every paycheck – seems like a good trade-off.

  12. May 30, 2009 3:50 pm

    nice! haha CDs quote is hilaaaaaaaaaar.

    i grew up eating miso soup!!! with seaweed!! 🙂

    and thanks for the shout out!! i haven’t bought tempeh in faaah ever. MOVING gosh! SOOOOOOOON my little soy friends. (ew that sounds so creepy!!)


  13. May 30, 2009 4:07 pm

    Hey girl.. you’ve gotta try fermented oats and you should read Wild Fermentation. But seriously.. fermented oats + plantain = SO GOOD!!!

  14. May 30, 2009 4:16 pm

    Mmmm I love my bacteria!! Every morning I get to eat those little critters 😉

    Haha CD’s comment is pretty funny! I’ve never tried miso before.

  15. May 30, 2009 4:49 pm

    I take my bacteria via orange flavored pill. Much easier for me to stomach then tempeh!

    It worries me that urine samples float around your house like soup 😉

  16. May 30, 2009 5:27 pm

    Thanks for posting this info. I think I should look into this some more…becuase I’m on the Pill and while my diet is fairly healthy, I probably eat too much sugar and could use some healthy bacteria in my life 🙂

  17. May 30, 2009 5:39 pm


    Such an informative post! I’ve never thought about my good bacteria levels. You’v’e given me something new to obsess about… lol.

    Have a great night!

    With Love,


  18. May 30, 2009 6:51 pm

    Such a great idea and I”m so glad you shared this information. Just want remind everyone not to boil the miso in the broth because that will kill the good bacteria!!

    I just started my first batch of kombucha and am SO excited to try it 🙂

  19. May 30, 2009 8:32 pm

    This was an incredibly interesting post! I used to have horrible digestive issues and no doctor ANYWHERRE (okay, so that’s a little of an exaggeration!) could figure out what is wrong! I haven’t had issues in a while, but maybe I should give some of these tips a try!

    Dont forget to enter my giveaway!! 😀

  20. May 30, 2009 11:33 pm

    Great post! I love getting probiotics bc they help with poo. What kind of miso do you use? As in, what color?

  21. mesharon permalink
    May 31, 2009 12:56 am

    Heather! Miso soup is yummy. Tempeh looks interesting, like an oat cookie and CD is so funny! hahah

  22. May 31, 2009 3:09 am

    yum i love miso!

  23. May 31, 2009 5:36 am

    Yum. I love miso. I don’t usually have it for breakfast, although I have read elsewhere that it is beneficial for digestion. Okay fine, maybe I’ll have some this morning 🙂

  24. May 31, 2009 6:19 am

    Interesting post – I think I could definately insert a mug of miso broth into my diet! Thanks for the great health tip 🙂

  25. May 31, 2009 7:12 am

    Thank you, as usual, my friend, for an informative and fascinating post!

    I really like the Dr. Ohhira’s probiotics 🙂

  26. May 31, 2009 8:28 am

    Heather, you so smart and sweet!! I should start taking probiotics again. Whats the cals and other stats in that miso?

    Love you,

  27. May 31, 2009 9:33 am

    I love my morning miso! Also go for a second cup around 3 in the afternoon.

  28. Briana in Tucson permalink
    May 31, 2009 1:27 pm

    I’m with you all the way on the probiotics. I actually scoop the miso paste straight out of the tub and use it as a base for my salad dressings. Add a little garlic, a little lemon, a little agave nectar, a little extra virgin olive oil… then drizzle it over veggies and avaocado…mmmmmm. A tasty and unusual way to get my miso in for the day. Mmmm, and kimchi… and fermented umeboshi plums… Is it lunchtime yet?!

  29. May 31, 2009 2:11 pm

    Thank you for this! I enjoyed reading and learning about bacteria 🙂
    I hate when people name all bacteria as bad. So not true!
    ❤ jess

  30. Keegan permalink
    May 31, 2009 4:43 pm

    Ditto to the above. The bugs have been around a heck of a lot longer than we have! Does it matter time of day to get in your daily dose or is it just as long as you get a daily dose? Thanks for the great information!!

  31. May 31, 2009 7:56 pm

    That miso soup is such a great idea!
    Also, I was just reading your post about gaining weight on a raw food diet. That is so interesting – when I did a 30 raw food diet I didn’t gain weight but I certainly didn’t lose weight. This makes me wonder if I have the same problem as you do or if I am just prone to eating too much food if I let myself (definitely true).

  32. June 1, 2009 4:43 am

    I mightcould be in for some morning miso.
    Thanks so much for explaining the WHY heather—-as Id been so curious.

  33. June 1, 2009 6:06 am

    I used to make my own miso soup and I stopped for some reason. I didn’t know it was full of good bacteria, though! I am a bit worried about that myself after several years of being on the pill. I take a probiotic multivitamin but I’m sure that is not natural and who knows if it actually does anything. Maybe I need to start making miso again?

  34. June 1, 2009 6:22 am

    I agree! Bacteria can be awesome! I love Kombucha. It makes my tummy feel A-MAZING! Love your blog, btw. (I finally decided to delurk this morning!)

  35. Katharina permalink
    June 1, 2009 6:52 am

    Yumm homemade raw coconut ice cream. I wouldn’t be able to find the time to utter a word a either.

  36. June 1, 2009 9:50 am

    lol love the CD comment on this one! so funny. thanks for the probiotic info.. i am going to pick one up and those tips will help!

  37. april permalink
    June 1, 2009 8:10 pm

    Thats really interesting! I have always taken probiotics in pill form but the soup is a really good idea!

  38. July 3, 2009 4:38 pm

    Hi Heather! I don’t know if I’ve ever commented on your blog before, but I spent a bunch of time this morning perusing your old posts (not a whole lot going on over here as you can probably tell) just to get a sense of where you started and where you are now. I LOVE your blog!! Right up there as one of my favorites.

    Do you listen to Jillian Michael’s podcasts? I was just listening to her most recent one the other day and she was talking a lot about not eating soy unless it’s fermented. It goes right along with your blog and the importance of getting enough probiotics in our bodies. She’s also a firm believer in not using birth control pills (something I wish I’d realized a long time ago) nor antibiotics.

    On a side note – I am so with you on almond butter. There was one point where I had 8 different kinds of nut butters in my pantry. YUM! 🙂

  39. July 3, 2009 5:17 pm

    I forgot to add that you’ve given me another great idea for the miso I just bought! I used it in one of Gena’s recipes and now I know I can use it again soon. Thanks!


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