Beet it. Just beet it.
Guess who got sick again. *raises hand* It’s such a shocker isn’t it? Usual stuff, sinus infection, lungs full of crud so on and so forth. Most people get allergies in the spring but I get another round of a nasty sinus/bronchial infection. Except the miraculous thing is this: my body fought off the infection all by itself this time. I, Olivia the Princess of piss poor immune systems, beat an illness all on my own. I KNOW RIGHT? I spent two full days resting, getting lots of water, had vegetables-fruit-and yes mom even a little dairy, and forced myself to function for 90 minutes of Bikram Yoga. I’m convinced that my general trend toward overall better health is because of Bikram, but I’ll get more into that another day. Instead I want to talk about the benefits of something that’s everywhere now: probiotics. Why do I want to talk about probiotics? Well it’s because of Kefir, which is a main ingredient in my Beet Soup recipe to follow.
First let’s quickly differentiate between pre- and pro-biotics. Probiotics are foods that contain living cultures of bacteria and yeast that are beneficial to the human body. Prebiotics are foods that contain forms of fiber that humans can’t consume, but that the microorganisms in Probiotics live off of. It’s important to get both in your diet because you want to keep those good bacteria happy and healthy in your GI tract. This brings us to why I’m a big fan of Kefir.
Kefir is fermented milk, either from a cow or goat, teeming with bacteria and yeast. Hungry yet? You should be. It’s all GOOD stuff, ya know, the bugs that keep your intestines happy and since we absorb so many nutrients through the intestines, you want good bacteria building up there. Now here is where Kefir is special: the processing that goes into yogurt limits the kind of bacteria and yeast that grow in it. There are more strains in Kefir, strains that can actually colonize in your intestines and continue to live there even if you never touch Kefir a second time. So long as you keep them happy (remember to eat your prebiotics like sweet potato and sunchokes) they will stick around. Well okay, you’ll probably need to drink Kefir more than just once, but you get the point.
Heating the kefir will kill off a lot of these microorganisms, so if you want the full health benefits of this soup I suggest eating it chilled. It’s almost more like a smoothie that way and you can pour it in a glass instead of a bowl. I just liked the pretty heart drops in the soup bowl. I realize that this will not be for everyone. Not only is it a fermented dairy product, but also the recipe uses beets in what can only be called a form of borscht soup. My love for it must come from the Ukrainian in me but give it a try one of these days, if only to say you did.
Beet Fennel and Kefir Soup
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 cup chopped fennel bulb
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds
- 2 large (2 1/2-to 3-inch-diameter) beets, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 2 cups low-salt chicken broth
- 1 cup unflavored kefir
- Additional unflavored kefir
- Fennel fronds (for garnish)
 Yes it is fermented milk, meaning it has a very low alcohol content around <1%.