“They’re good bugs,” Jade Herrmann says. She’s talking about probiotics, the term for those mysterious, invisible, ingestible things we’ve been told are great for our guts. “A lot of times we are introduced to bad bugs, whether that’s through the foods that we eat, whether it’s through our stress levels, alcohol consumption—and that can essentially deteriorate our microbiome, which is our gut. Good bugs like to populate the microbiome and defend us from sickness, and that’s helping to build up a really strong immune system.”
Herrmann is the founder of Yoggu, a Vancouver-based vegan yogurt company that ferments coconut instead of milk. Even though it’s dairy-free, Yoggu products are incredibly creamy and delicious (and yes, they taste just like the real thing). And because they’re fermented, they’re also a great source of probiotics.
“Yogurt across the board basically means that you’re using a culture to ferment, whether it’s dairy, or in my case, coconut. Must often the strain that’s found in yogurt is called lactobacillus, and in my yogurt I actually use three different strains,” Herrmann explains. “That’s basically what we do: introduce the bacteria and then let it ferment.”
Yogurt is a great source of said “good bugs,” but other fermented foods are, too, including kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi (probiotics can also be taken in pill form, though Herrmann believes that for the average person looking to up their intake, ingesting them through food or drink is a better bet as they allow for easier digestion and absorption). As for how much to take, she’s adamant that you can’t overdo it.
“You could eat probiotics every day—I would say that’s even the best-case scenario because then you’re building up a really strong microbiome that’s essentially going to fend off anything that’s coming your way,” she says. Probiotics are also known to help with digestion, and even with gastrointestinal issues like Crohn’s disease or irritable bowel syndrome.
“It all comes down to the person and what works for them,” Herrmann explains. For her, it was becoming vegan and missing regular yogurt that led her to search for non-dairy yogurt and eventually create Yoggu. At the end of the day, even if you do eat animal products, Herrmann believes that the vegan movement is opening the public’s eyes to food production and consumption—which is always a good thing. “I think people, whether they’re vegan or not, plant-based or not, just need to be more mindful of the ingredients that we’re putting in our bodies,” she says. It’s coconut yogurt today, but who knows what tomorrow will bring.