Did you know that there “good” bacteria that are part of the trillions of microorganisms that inhabit our bodies? Probiotics are living microorganisms that have the capacity to positively impact our health. Different strains have different benefits for different parts of your body. For example, one type of probiotic has been shown to support the immune system and to help food move through the gut, while another may help relieve symptoms of lactose intolerance.
Scientists are still sorting out exactly how probiotics work. According to the American Gastroenterological Association, they may:
- Boost your immune system by enhancing the production of antibodies to certain vaccines.
- Produce substances that prevent infection.
- Prevent harmful bacteria from attaching to the gut lining and growing there.
- Send signals to your cells to strengthen the mucus in your intestine to help it act as a barrier against infection.
- Inhibit or destroy toxins released by certain “bad” bacteria that can make you sick.
- Produce B vitamins necessary for metabolizing the food you eat, warding off anemia caused by deficiencies in B6 and B12, and maintaining healthy skin and a healthy nervous system.
Products containing probiotics have become more popular in recent years, as more people seek natural or non-drug ways to maintain their health. Here are some probiotic containing foods and drinks that will help to keep your gut biome in tip-top shape:
If you’re a big fan of yogurt, try probiotic-rich kefir, which can be described as a drinkable yogurt. One delicious way to enjoy the beverage is to make a kefir parfait as you would yogurt and top with nuts and seeds, oats, dried or fresh fruit, cinnamon, and a drizzle of honey or maple syrup.
Not all cheeses are good sources of probiotics, but certain soft fermented cheeses like Cheddar, Swiss, Parmesan and particularly Gouda contain bacteria that can survive the journey through your GI tract to benefit your health. Some cottage cheeses that list “live active cultures” on the label also contain probiotics. Work an ounce of soft cheese or a ½ cup of cottage cheese into snacks and meals for an added protein and calcium boost.
This fermented soybean-based product is made by aging and fermenting soybeans, a process that produces probiotics. One tablespoon contains only 40 calories but can be very salty, supplying nearly a third of your daily sodium limit—so use sparingly. You might find this served with your sushi in the form of a hot soup at a Japanese restaurant. There are also miso soup kits you can buy to make it at home.
Made from sweetened tea that’s been fermented by a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast, this bottled or canned tea can be found in the refrigerated section of natural food stores and grocery chains. This drink has a pleasant natural fizz, with 50% fewer calories and a fourth of the amount of sugar of soda. If you are feeling ambitious, here is a guide to brewing your own strawberry basil kombucha.
A spicy side dish made from cabbage and found in Korean cuisine, kimchi is a staple of the culture and is often cited as the reason for low rates of digestive disorders. You can find kimchi available in some supermarkets, and in any Asian food mart in the refrigerated section.
Tempeh, a food made from fermented soybeans, is often featured in vegan and vegetarian cuisine. Replacing meat and dairy with tempeh and other soy products lowers our total cholesterol intake by about 125 milligrams per day and our saturated fat by about 2.5 grams per day. Soy foods typically contain a wide variety of phytonutrients. In the case of fermented soy foods like tempeh, these phytonutrients can become more concentrated and more bioavailable.