A probiotic, cultured drink, fruit enzyme, which is made by mixing fruits, such as apples, oranges, pineapples, limes, lemons and more, with a sugar source, and letting the mixture undergo a fermentation process, is said to offer a slew of health benefits.
Probiotics, a word derived from Latin, which means 'for life', are live microorganisms, and when administered in adequate amounts, confer many health benefits on the host. Simply put, probiotics are bacteria that line our digestive tract and support our body’s ability to absorb nutrients and fight infection. Probiotics are also essential to prevent illnesses and improve many bodily functions.
Throughout history, and for nearly 10,000 years, many ancient cultures have thrived on probiotics found in fermented drinks and cultured foods, which were invented for food preservation (long before the refrigerator was invented).
Some health benefits of probiotics include
• Improve digestion by augmenting the breakdown and absorption of nutrients (sometimes 20 times or higher)
• They crowd out disease-causing bad bacteria, yeast and fungi
• Clean our entire alimentary system
• Boost our immune system
• Reduce flu and colds
• Heal inflammatory bowel conditions
• Manage and prevent eczema
• Treat liver disease
• Lower cholesterol
• Improve acne
• Remove toxins
• Assist in weight loss
Here in Asia, many traditional households have already experimented with making their own probiotic-rich fruit enzyme drinks, often made by mixing citrus fruit, sugar and water, and allowing it to go through a fermentation process. One popular probiotic drink is Malaysia’s thirst-quenching preserved sour plum calamansi drink, whereby limes and plums are soaked in plenty of salt for a very long period of time.
Here's a look at some probiotic drinks:
A familiar probiotic food, yoghurt is made by fermenting milk until it becomes soured milk - leave a bottle of milk outside the fridge long enough, and it will eventually become yoghurt. The fermentation of lactose, by lactic acid bacteria to produce lactic acid, which then acts on milk protein, is what gives yoghurt its unique texture and distinctive tart taste.
Unfortunately, many of today’s store-bought yoghurt do not have ‘live’ cultures. To really reap the full benefits of eating ‘live’ probiotics, do look out for ‘live’ on labels before purchasing any yoghurt.
Alternatively, make your own healthy yet delicious ‘live’ yoghurt or yoghurt drinks at home. Some of the benefits of making homemade yoghurt is that you can adjust the level of sweetness and sourness to suit your taste buds.
Lassi is a popular Indian yoghurt beverage, and is made by blending yoghurt, water, spices, and sometimes fruit.
A fermented, enzyme-rich beverage that originally started in Russia and Turkey several thousands years ago, milk kefir, which has incredible medicinal benefits, such as effective for healing a leaky gut, is created by the fermentation of milk by the bacteria and yeasts found in kefir starters called kefir grains.
What are Kefir Grains
Milk kefir grains are those gelatinous white or yellow clumps, which look like small chunks of cauliflowers. These grains contain the bacteria/yeast mixture bound together with casein (milk proteins) and complex sugars. These grains will ferment the milk, incorporating their friendly organisms to create the richly cultured probiotics. The grains are then removed with a strainer before consumption of the milk kefir and added to a new batch of milk.
Kefir vs Yoghurt Probiotics
The taste of yoghurt and milk kefir are quite similar. The naturally occurring bacteria and yeast in kefir combine symbiotically to give superior health benefits when consumed regularly. Milk kefir is also loaded with valuable vitamins and minerals, and contains easily digestible complete protein chains.
Kefir has at least three times (and probably more) the amount of probiotic cultures which are typically present in yoghurt products. Furthermore, kefir contains over 10-50 strains of friendly organisms.
On the other hand, yoghurt helps clean the digestive system and provides food for the friendly bacteria that are already present in our intestines - yoghurt makes sure that these bacteria grow and remain stable. A major characteristic of kefir is that the probiotics contained in kefir will populate your digestive tract with much stronger strains of beneficial bacteria, and these bacteria will attach themselves to your investinal walls to keep them a lot cleaner. As compared to yoghurt, which lasts for only one day, kefir lasts a lot longer.
Kombucha is a living health drink made by fermenting tea and sugar with the Kombucha culture. The result usually tastes like something between a sparkling apple cider and champagne, depending on what kind of tea you use.
Kombucha, is made by fermenting sweetened tea using a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast). This ancient chinese beverage has been around for over 2,000 years and has a rich anecdotal history of many health benefits.
Suitable Tea for Making Kombucha
Many types of tea can be used for Kombucha fermentation, however, you have to take note that the tea used must be a real tea and not a herbal tea, Here are some suggestions:
• Black tea
• Oolong tea
• Green tea
• White tea
What is a Kombucha SCOBY?
A SCOBY, which looks somewhat like a “mushroom”, is also known as a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. It contains a colony of bacteria and yeast that are responsible for initiating the fermentation process once combined with sugar. Once placed into the tea, the Scoby looks like a beige or white rubbery pancake floating atop the tea, and after about two weeks, the sweetened black or green tea will slowly turn into a bowl full of vitamins, minerals, probiotics and a high concentration of health-giving organic acid (acetic, gluconic and lactic), which are tied with tremendous healthful effects including digestive support, as well as increased energy and liver detoxification.
Kombucha and its Health Benefits
Many of the benefits reported include improvements in energy levels, metabolic disorders, allergies, cancer, digestive problems, candidiasis, hypertension, HIV, chronic fatigue and arthritis. Kombucha has many other uses – it is also used externally for skin problems, and as a hair wash among other things.
Also referred to as Russian Cola, Kvass, is a traditional fermented beverage that is hugely popular in Russia. Although the Russians have been drinking kvass for over a thousand years, it is rapidly rising in popularity in other parts of the world, thanks to its probiotic characteristics, whic offer exceptional health benefits.
This fizzy, low-alcohol (0.05 - 1.44%) bread beverage, which typically has a tangy, earthy and salty flavour, is very popular throughout the ex-USSR countries, enjoyed by both Czars and common peasants. It is common to see barrels of kvass on the streets of Moscow in Russia because it is considered as a tonic for digestion, containing probiotics, and an excellent thirst quencher. kvass also contains high levels of vitamin B, which is considered to be a good appetiser and a healthy source of energy. The drink is also recommended for sportsmen who are trying to increase their muscle weight.
Extremely easy to make with regular household ingredients, the main ingredient of kvass is rye bread. However, for those who are allergic to grains, they can make their own kvass with fruits such as raisins, as well as herbs.