Pickled foods are not only tasty but, because they are fermented, are loaded with probiotics and enzymes. Fermentation allows bacteria to "pre-digest" and break down carbohydrates, proteins and fats to create "probiotics." However, pickled foods are salty so those watching their sodium intake should eat them in moderation.
Probiotics maintain a healthy digestive system by balancing the harmful and beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract. A healthy gastro-intestinal tract is critical to a strong immune system. These forms of bacteria also help to prevent yeast over-growth and assist in the synthesis of vitamin K.
Old-fashioned pickling creates a salty, anaerobic environment that allows naturally occurring bacteria to multiply. As the bacteria consume the sugar in the food, lactic acid is produced. Eventually the pickled food becomes so acidic that no other bacteria can live in it. Promotion of good bacteria keeps the bad bacteria away. And, if you're wondering, the nutritional values of pickled vegetables are similar to that of raw veggies.
Natural sources of friendly bacteria are: buttermilk, yogurt, cheese, kefir, miso, sauerkraut and other pickled foods, and tempeh. If you're not tickled by the idea of plain pickled foods, pairing them with flavorful cheeses makes them not just palatable - but delicious. Here are a few ideas for starters: