Don't Fear The Good Bacteria

by HEAB on May 30, 2009

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!


Hayley July 3, 2009 at 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!

Hayley July 3, 2009 at 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! 🙂

april June 1, 2009 at 8:10 pm

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

janetha June 1, 2009 at 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!

Katharina June 1, 2009 at 6:52 am

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

Katrina (gluten free gidget) June 1, 2009 at 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!)

Lara (Thinspired) June 1, 2009 at 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?

MizFit June 1, 2009 at 4:43 am

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

phoebe May 31, 2009 at 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).

Keegan May 31, 2009 at 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!!

Jess May 31, 2009 at 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!
<3 jess

Briana in Tucson May 31, 2009 at 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?!

Meghan (Making Love In The Kitchen) May 31, 2009 at 9:33 am

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

justine May 31, 2009 at 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,

Gena (Choosing Raw) May 31, 2009 at 7:12 am

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

I really like the Dr. Ohhira’s probiotics 🙂

Ashley May 31, 2009 at 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 🙂

Gina May 31, 2009 at 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 🙂

Pearl May 31, 2009 at 3:09 am

yum i love miso!

mesharon May 31, 2009 at 12:56 am

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

Erin May 30, 2009 at 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?

Emily May 30, 2009 at 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!! 😀

Amy May 30, 2009 at 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 🙂

CurlyTop May 30, 2009 at 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,


Hallie May 30, 2009 at 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 🙂

Sarah May 30, 2009 at 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 😉

ksgoodeats May 30, 2009 at 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.

Nicole May 30, 2009 at 4:07 pm

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

glidingcalm May 30, 2009 at 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!!)


Heather (be well & take care) May 30, 2009 at 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.

dawn May 30, 2009 at 2:58 pm

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

homegirlcaneat May 30, 2009 at 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

Leah May 30, 2009 at 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.

brandi May 30, 2009 at 2:34 pm

ha, urine sample 🙂

I hope you’re having a wonderful weekend!

Shelby May 30, 2009 at 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?

Susan May 30, 2009 at 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!

Erica May 30, 2009 at 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!

Sarah May 30, 2009 at 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!

charlotte May 30, 2009 at 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!

Run Sarah May 30, 2009 at 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.

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