Sauerkraut Is Sexy, Says L.A.'s Juice Guru

·Food Editor

Amanda Chantal Bacon. Photo: Katrina Dickson for Jean Stories

"Perhaps the most important things in my kitchen are live and active probiotics." Maybe that’s not something you hear often, but it’s something you’ll hear from Amanda Chantal Bacon, founder of cult Los Angeles juice shop and haute health food brand Moon Juice. For the next couple of days, we’re chatting with Bacon about the nutritive qualities of foods you might not be familiar with. In today’s post, we’re talking about probiotics, probiotic-rich fermented and cultured foods, and Bacon’s suggestions for getting more of both in your diet.

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Moon Pantry’s fermentation kit.

What they are: “Probiotics are microbes with beneficial bacteria that restore the natural balance in your gut,” explained Bacon. She sometimes takes probiotics in supplement form, and she also mixes vegetables with a probiotic powder that she sells via the Moon Juice pantry. ”That’s what we call a cultured food,” she said. Fermented foods, such as sauerkraut and kimchi, also contain probiotics.

Why she thinks they’re good for you: Bacon believes probiotics populate the intestines with organisms that defend against disease. “A healthy gut is key; you’ll start to notice smoother digestion, increased energy, elevated mood, glowing skin, stronger immunity, and potent liver cleansing,” she said.

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Cucumber kimchi. Photo: Chloe Lim/Flickr

A few easy tips: ”You can use kimchi or sauerkraut as condiments—they go great on a sandwich, like grilled cheeseand they are lovely to add to any bowl you may be making with grains and other veggies. The salty, tangy 'kraut juice that comes in the jar is great for salad dressing, just add olive oil to it. And it's a must if you eat meat, to put some cultured veggies on the side. The whole pork with applesauce thing? I think that should be pork with pickled vegetables. It tastes great and really helps with digestion.”

What to look for: ”It’s very important to look for the word ‘probiotic.’ You want to see that it’s a live, raw food that hasn’t been pasteurized—no vinegar, no lemon juice. All sourness and tanginess and pickle flavor should come from the probiotics.”

And if you don’t like sourness: ”The other way that is appealing to a lot of people is a yogurt or kefir. If you want to do dairy, I really suggest going for a goat milk kefir. (Go for the unsweetened—and try to get into the flavor of it. It defeats the purpose when you add a bunch of white sugar.)  Coconut kefir, made with coconut water, is something I enjoy daily. Coconut yogurt, too.”

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Homemade cashew cheese on moonjuiceshop.com.

Yes, nut cheese: ”These have become pretty widely available in stores, but there are two types. Avoid the nut spread that has been flavored with lemon juice. Instead, go for a nut-based cheese that is alive and is fermented and has probiotics in it. You can also make this at home: Soak cashews overnight, put them in a blender, get them to a thick, smooth puree, inoculate it with probiotics, and leave it out covered overnight. Taste it to make sure it’s tangy, and add salt if you want. It will continue to ferment in the fridge slowly and get stronger. It will also continue to cure and harden as it loses water. I like to put it in quinoa macaroni or on toast in the morning drizzled with honey and sea salt.”

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Probiotic powder from Moon Pantry.

Amanda’s DIY Coconut Yogurt
One coconut makes about 1 1/2 servings, depending on how hungry you are.

Get a Thai coconut, not a Mexican one, whose meat is harder. Scrape out the meat and blend it with a little of the coconut water. Mix in the contents of probiotic capsules. Let it sit out, covered, on the kitchen counter overnight. After that, it will keep for a week in the fridge.

Other healthy news:

Why blogger Aine Carlin went from meat-eater to vegan overnight

New superfoods to discover in 2015

A guide to good coconut oil