This is my go to recipe at the moment, since it comes together so quickly and is super filling. Miso is a fermented paste, made out of soy beans, bacteria cultures, and often a grain like rice or barely. While I have touched upon the subject of regular soy and its health problems, eating fermented, organic soy in the form of miso is an excellent way to boost your friendly gut bacteria.
Our digestion affects everything in our body
In my nutrition coaching sessions I always talk about how we all need to take better care of our digestive tract. Processed foods, alcohol, medicine (especially antibiotics), sugar, and animal products all play havoc with our digestion. When our digestion breaks down, we feel lethargic, exhausted, bloated, and are in a bad mood, because the nutrients in our food can't be broken down and used efficiently in our body to fuel us. In this case, food often stays in our digestive tract too long, rotting away, and producing unpleasant gas. The rotting food causes more blockages and more food to be stuck - a never ending cycle of poor digestion.
Bacteria in our digestive tract?
Our digestive tract is an incredible construction of hills and valleys, filled with helpers (enzymes) to break down food, and massive populations of bacteria. While for the longest time we thought bacteria are disgusting things we can't see and that need to be wiped out at all costs, we are now beginning to understand how good bacteria are responsible for our digestion, our immune system, and so many more processes in our body. As soon as we are born, our digestive tract gets populated with bacteria; at first from the mother, then from our surroundings and the food we eat. Taking good care of our bacteria should be priority number one, but - just like in so many other cases - because we can't see it, we don't really pay attention to it. Only when things go seriously wrong, do we start to address the overflow of bad bacteria in our gut. However, anyone can benefit from a better digestion at any point in their lives. And taking care of your good bacteria is much easier than you think.
What are pre- and probiotics?
There are 2 main terms used when we talk about bacteria: probiotics and prebiotics. Most of us don't really know the difference, we just know it's something that is supposed to be good for us. So when we buy a product that is fortified with pre- and probiotics, we will happily pay the extra money for it. But what are they really, and is there a more natural way to get them?
Probiotics are actual live bacteria. You will find them in all things fermented like yogurt, kefir, miso, tempeh, sauerkraut, real pickles, kimchi, and kombucha. These are the actual good bacteria we need for better digestion. Eating these foods will provide more good bacteria to populate your gut.
In order for these good bacteria to survive and thrive in your gut, they need two things: fiber and water. Fiber is the roughage of plants - think the brown husk around the brown rice grain. Bacteria loves to break down these tough structures and grows because of it. In order for this break down process to work properly, the bacteria also need a lot of water. Fiber without water means that the bacteria are too full from the fiber and start to produce gas. This results in bloating and a stool that is hard to pass for us. With plenty of water though, the bacteria can thrive on the fiber, grow happily, and our stool becomes softer and easier to pass.
Prebiotics is the food for the bacteria, the actual fiber. So often a product will contain both, the live bacteria (probiotic) and the fiber as food for this bacteria (prebiotic). However, when you take this you still need to be conscious of your water intake, otherwise you will become more bloated and uncomfortable than before.
Should I use supplements?
Supplementing pre- and probiotics may be one way to increase your friendly bacteria in your digestion. However, often this is costly, and most often money thrown down the drain, because the bacteria doesn't survive the passage through your digestive tract to its destination. I am a fan of supplementing when you don't have access to any natural versions of pre- and probiotics, for example when you are traveling. At home, it is much easier to include these bacteria in your every day meals though. Like I already said, there is a long list of fermented foods you can choose from to add to daily dishes such as yogurt with your morning granola, pickles to your salad, miso to your soup. These foods don't have to be eaten in massive quantities, just one or two spoons full at each meal is plenty.
Delicious garlicky miso beans
These garlicky miso beans provide both the pre- and probiotic. The bacteria come from the miso, and the fiber is in the beans - a perfect combination for a happier digestion! When it comes to the beans, you can choose to make this dish with any kind of beans, chickpeas, and even lentils. I usually cook a big batch of beans each week, so they are ready to go whenever I need them. If you are short on time, you can always use a can of beans. Just make sure to get one without BPA lining, and rinse the beans very well before using.
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Makes 2 servings:
1 cup cooked beans (any kind you like or open a can of beans if you are short on time)
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup water
1 tsp virgin coconut oil
1 tsp miso paste
1. Heat a medium sized pan over medium heat.
2. Add the coconut oil, minced garlic, and beans. Stir for 2 minutes until the garlic starts to brown.