Probiotic Punch – Summer Smoothies and Drinks
by Stacey Tress
Hey, everyone! How’s your summer going? With the heat of summer, and the desire to quench thirst, I was inspired to write an article on some of our family’s favourite recipes to beat the heat. Probiotic punch? You may be wondering where I’m going with this article. As many of you know, I carry active culture kits (kombucha, kefir, sourdough starter) and am continually fermenting up a batch of something health conscious and yummy for myself and my family.
What if you could make your own drinks, smoothie pops, frozen treats—easily, and cheaply in your own home? Bonus if these thirst quenchers were full of probiotic goodness and were good for your waistline and your budget! I’ll break it down below to talk a bit about what probiotics are, how they work, different kinds of live probiotic drinks (and where to find the cultures to make them), and finish off with some winning recipes!
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for your health, especially your digestive system. We usually think of bacteria as something that causes diseases. But, your body is full of bacteria, both good and bad. Probiotics are often called “good” or “helpful” bacteria because they help keep your gut healthy.
Probiotics are naturally found in your body. You can also find them in some foods and supplements; especially in foods that are fermented, ie. traditional sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, kombucha, kefir, miso, and more.
It’s only been since about the mid-1990s that people have wanted to know more about probiotics and their health benefits. Doctors often suggest them to help with digestive problems. And because of their newfound fame, you can find them in everything from yogurt to chocolate.
How Do Probiotics Work?
There are many strains of bacteria that are classified as a probiotic but listed below are two common types:
Lactobacillus. This may be the most common probiotic. It’s the one you’ll find in yogurt and other fermented foods (ie. sauerkraut, kefir). Different strains can help with diarrhea and may help with people who can’t digest lactose, the sugar in milk.
Bifidobacterium. You can also find it in some dairy products. It may help ease the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and some other conditions.
When you lose good bacteria in your body (like after you take antibiotics, for example), probiotics can help replace them.
They can help balance your good and bad bacteria to keep your body working like it should.
What Do They Do?
Probiotics help move food through your gut while also increasing the digestibility and absorption of the vitamins and minerals. Some common conditions they can treat are:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Infectious diarrhea (caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites)
- Antibiotic-related diarrhea
There is also some research to show they help with problems in other parts of your body. For example, some people say they have helped with:
- Skin conditions, like eczema
- Urinary and vaginal health
- Preventing allergies and colds
- Oral health
Different Types of Cultured/Fermented Drinks
Kefir, aka Tibicos (Water Kefir)
Water kefir is one of many names used to describe a versatile culture that can be used to ferment any carbohydrate-rich liquid. The culture—also known as tibicos or tibis, sugary-water grains, Tibetan crystals, Japanese water crystals, and bees wine—is a SCOBY, a symbiotic community of bacteria and yeast, which appear as small whitish translucent granules and grow quickly when fed regularly. Water kefir is not directly related to kefir, the ancient culture from the Caucasus Mountains used to ferment milk.
Water kefir is pretty simple to make and will ferment any type of sugar, or other sweeteners, such as honey, maple syrup, agave syrup, rice syrup, or barley malt. Many people ferment coconut water using water kefir. Coconut milk and nut, seed, and grain milks can also be fermented in this way. The inspirations are almost endless when it comes to what you can use to make a probiotic rich drink, using water kefir—fruit juice, fresh fruit, fruit beer, any sweet liquid will work! The bacteria and yeast consume the sugar (it’s their food/fuel source) and in turn provide a delicious, nutritious, and bubbly beverage!
Kombucha is a sugar-sweetened tea fermented by a community of organisms into a delicious sour tonic beverage, sometimes compared to sparkling apple cider. Kombucha is produced by a SCOBY, also known as a mother. Like any ferment, it contains unique metabolic by-products and living bacterial cultures—no other ferment even approaches kombucha in terms of its sudden dramatic popularity. Today, there are dozens of commercial enterprises manufacturing and selling kombucha—in 2009 a leading US brand, GT’s Kombucha, sold more than a million bottles and Newsweek reports that between 2008 and 2009, US kombucha sales quadrupled, from $80 million to $324 million!
Kombucha contains many healing acids, and its claim to be an “all healing” tonic comes from the glucuronic acid. This compound is also produced by our livers and binds with toxins for elimination. Kombucha does not target a specific body organ but, rather, influences the entire organism positively by the detoxifying effect of its glucuronic acid.
Kombucha is a sugar-sweetened tea, fermented by a specific community of bacteria and yeasts. Similar to water kefir (as they contain live bacteria and yeast which feed off a carbohydrate rich liquid—so yes, you feed it sugar, but you aren’t drinking a sugary beverage), the culinary inspiration for flavouring and making bubbly beverages is very exciting. For years we only drank what’s called a “first ferment” of kombucha (just the cultured tea) but over the last couple of years we have been enjoying a variety of “second ferments,” where you take the first ferment and then add flavouring to increase its tastiness and carbonation. Some of our favourites to use when doing a second ferment are organic grape or cherry juice (usually 4/5 kombucha with 1/5 organic juice), homemade raspberry juice, or fresh squeezed lemon with a few tbsps of sugar. When you do a second ferment, you cap (put a lid on) the flavoured kombucha and let it sit on counter for a day or so—this makes it really carbonated and such a pleasure to drink!
Where Can You Get These Cultures?
My friend, Keirsten Eva, who runs Culture Mother, supplies live kefir, kombucha scoby, jun scoby, and a variety of other fermenting cultures—Canada wide! She lives in Gravelbourg, SK. Check her webpage out at www.culturemother.ca and on facebook Culture Mother.
As you know, I supply the above live cultures as well—currently my webpage is under re-construction, but if you are on facebook you can connect with me there! (Garden Therapy Yorkton) For those looking to connect with other local fermenters, find recipes and more, I invite you to join my facebook group, “The Art of Fermentation.” I travel and teach fermentation classes all over the Prairies (usually spring/fall), so contact me if you are interested in attending one (or hosting!)
For those in the Regina area, my friend Kristen Hill, who owns Kristen’s Cultures, carries a variety of pre-made probiotic drinks including kombucha (her most popular flavours are Orange Herbal and Hibiscus Herbal), water kefir, milk kefir, beet kvass, and ginger beer. Connect with Kristen via her webpage www.kristenscultures.com and on facebook, too!
Beat the Heat with these Summer Drinks, Slushies, and Smoothie Pops!
I’m a busy mom, so all my recipes are super simple, versatile, and approved by kids, toddlers, and my husband, too!
Kombucha Slushie—makes 5 cups
In your blender add:
3 cups Kombucha
1-2 cups frozen mango, strawberry, raspberry, cherry (or a combination)
Squeeze of fresh lemon or lime
Blend and enjoy!
- Add an additional boost of wellness to this recipe (and any of these recipes) by adding chia seeds! I add about 1/2 cup per litre, stir, stir, stir so it doesn’t goup; let gel a few hours and voila, you’ve just increased your soluble fibre and omega-fatty acids! To save time, I usually will add this to my finished kombucha first and then use it to make drinks/smoothies.
- All of these recipes can be drunk as a slushie or smoothie drink and work well in frozen pop molds (great for the kids!)
- If you don’t have frozen fruit on hand (local, organic), then you can add ice to your blender to help it become a slushie. I’ve been using the same hand-held Braun mixer for 15 years, but it won’t handle the ice, however a Vita-Mix blender would be ideal!
Water Kefir Slushie—makes 5 cups
In blender add:
3 cups of water kefir (plain first ferment or any flavour if you do a 2nd ferment)
1–2 long chunks or fresh pineapple
1 cup of ice
1/2 cup plain yogurt (or milk kefir if you have that on hand) *omit if you don’t want dairy
splash of vanilla
Blend and enjoy!
Milk Kefir Smoothie Pops
In blender add:
3 cups milk kefir
1 cup frozen strawberries (or blueberries), 1 frozen banana
splash of vanilla
Blend, pour into smoothie pop molds, freeze, and enjoy!
The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz
Kombucha! The Amazing Probiotic Tea that Cleanses, Heals, Energizes, and Detoxifies by Eric and Jessica Childs
Garden Therapy Yorkton—these are recipes that I made up and use a lot with my family.
Stacey Tress, a Holistic Nutritional Therapist (HNT) and Young Living Essential Oil Distributor (#2282633), lives in Yorkton, SK with her husband and two daughters. She is the owner of Garden Therapy Yorkton which offers fermentation workshops, permaculture design work, organically grown produce, and more! She also offers essential oil support and carries a wide variety of Young Living Essential Oils and Products for sale. To learn more, please contact her at 306-641-4239, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, www.gardentherapyyorkton.ca, or on facebook “Garden Therapy Yorkton.” Also, see the display ad on page 9 of the 22.2 July/August issue of the WHOLifE Journal.