Many of us have long agreed in the connection between the condition of our gut and the health of our entire being. Theories of the direct, symbiotic harmony between a flourishing gut microbiota and its ability to affect all other facets of our health used to be reserved solely for alternative medicine practitioners and “kooky” doctors. In an age of treating symptoms over root causes, it should come as no surprise that most of Western medicine ignored the glaring facts; after all, where’s the money in creating healthy people from the start?
At long last, renowned scientists from many leading universities around the world are decisively asserting the link between gut health and a multitude of other seemingly unrelated ailments—from mental health and behavioral problems to degenerative disease. They’re finally promoting the importance of a thriving and diverse microbiome to support all body functions. It’s reassuring to see current mainstream medical fields catching on to a more holistic approach to health care because modern science and current studies of gut health could literally change the face of medicine as we know it (and hopefully for the better).
One of the surest and easiest ways to address our gut health is through diet: what we feed our flora in turn feeds us. This usually needs to be addressed through two channels. The first is battling unhealthy bacteria through elimination (or at the very least, reduction) of inflammatory foods such as sugars and sugar-producing foods, which feed “bad” microflora. The second is encouraging beneficial bacteria to thrive by introducing cultured, live foods in our diet. Oftentimes, dietary changes alone are enough to make a substantial difference in our well-being, though in most cases (especially concerning those on a decades-long diet of refined, processed, junk food) most would benefit from addressing all facets of lifestyle as well as adding supportive supplements to their routine.
When most people think of probiotic sources, only yogurt comes to mind. And yogurt can be a good start for those just introducing cultures into their diets, as long as you make conscious and educated decisions when purchasing. Remember, many yogurts are loaded with sugar, which essentially negates the positive impact of the cultures. But the most important, and frequently unknown, fact is that many brands of yogurt only contain minimal (if any at all) bacterial cultures. (This is one of many reasons why reading and understanding food labels is so important, especially as big companies rely on consumer ignorance to increasingly try to cash in on the gut health “trend.”) Further, there are hosts of beneficial bacteria in this world—some of which are found in yogurt, but many of which aren’t.
I’m always looking for ways to incorporate probiotic cultures into my daily routine; the more diverse our beneficial microflora is, the better our overall health will be. Even some of the same bacterial strains, coming from two various sources, will positively affect our bodies in more ways than through one source alone. For this reason, I urge folks to look beyond just yogurt, and include multitudes of different bacteria from an array of unique sources when possible. The best sources are from fermented foods because they’re rich in lactic acid. Lactic acid feeds gut flora, whereas probiotics in pill form only remain in the gut for a few weeks and have to be replenished frequently.
This delicious, creamy dressing combines bacterial strains from three unique sources all in one tasty package. It starts with a mayonnaise base (a quality store-bought will do just fine–—see the note in the recipe) and is supplemented with cultures from yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut juice. Perfect for kids and adults, it’s scrumptious drizzled atop salad greens, or when served as a dip or a spread for sandwiches and wraps. I’ve used it on eggs, grilled meats, and veggies with fabulous results, packing a powerful punch of both flavor and nutrition into some of my favorite meals. Watch for fun and unique cultured krauts at your grocery store to mix up the flavoring a bit. If you don’t have access to kraut juice, apple cider vinegar will work in a pinch and provides similar results.
Lastly, if you’re new to probiotic foods, adding too many cultures at once can often result in a shock to your system, creating indigestion and other negative effects. It’s recommended to start slowly—I wouldn’t suggest eating loads of this dressing in one sitting if your gut isn’t used to live foods yet. Begin with small amounts (1 tablespoon or less) of live-cultured foods, increasing daily for about a week. Once your flora has begun replenishing, there should be minimal problems associated with ingesting larger amounts.
Steak Bites with Probiotic Green Goddess Dressing
Dressing makes about 2 cups
Prep time: 5–10 minutes, plus 30 minutes for dressing flavors to blend
Cook time: 15 minutes
My favorite store-bought mayonnaise is Chosen Foods Avocado Oil Mayo. It’s not 100 percent organic, but it’s the best quality and has the most neutral flavor I’ve found. Wilderness Family Naturals makes a mayo made with sesame oil that’s of excellent quality and is certified organic—however, the flavor is a little stronger and not as neutral as avocado oil mayo. Both options are made without genetically modified industrial seed oils like soy, corn, and canola oils. If you have time, try your hand at homemade mayonnaise because it’s far superior to anything you can find in the store and can be made with any oil you like!
For the steak:
12-ounce rib-eye steak, or other steak of your liking
Olive oil, salt, pepper, herbs or spices of your choosing if you like
Bamboo or stainless steel skewers
For the dressing:
1 cup mayonnaise, homemade or quality store-bought
½ cup Greek yogurt or cultured sour cream
½ cup kefir or buttermilk
2 tablespoons sauerkraut liquid
1 garlic clove, minced
1 anchovy filet
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon dehydrated onion
2 green onions or small handful chives, minced
2 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped tarragon, or 1 teaspoon dried
Salt and pepper, to taste
- Prepare dressing: Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Blend until fully combined. Transfer to a jar and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes for flavors to blend.
- Prepare steak: Trim steak and cut into large, bite-size pieces. Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and any other flavorings you enjoy. Thread onto skewers and set aside at room temperature.
- Cook steak: Preheat the grill to high. Grill skewers to your liking. Transfer to a plate to rest for about 5 minutes, then push steak cubes off skewers and divide among serving plates. Drizzle with dressing, with extra on the side for dipping. Save any remaining dressing for any of the above-mentioned ideas, or anything else you want to put it on!
Image by Briana Goodall.