Regulating and balancing the 100 trillion different types of bacteria that call your gut home may seem overwhelming. Thankfully, probiotics provide significant aid in maintaining proper gut health while also improving overall bodily function. Probiotics improve one’s health by helping maintain proper balance of bacteria and promoting growth of healthy microflora within the gut.
This has a reverberating positive effect throughout the body and can boost a variety of bodily functions including:
- Weight loss
- Restoring cognitive function
- Reducing bloating
- Boosting energy
- Stabilizing mood
- Increasing vitamin absorption
Perhaps the gut’s most widely recognized impact is on one’s immune system. However, this is only a portion of the gastrointestinal tract’s influence on the body. Staying in good health means keeping one’s intestine working correctly. With decreased intestinal function the risk of developing serious chronic conditions increases notably. Poor gut health can cause the following conditions to develop:
- Crohn’s disease
- Leaky gut syndrome
- Type one diabetes
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Intestinal inflammation
Probiotics belong to one of the five essential nutrient groups that must be acquired daily. Unfortunately, some aren’t aware of the importance of probiotics, don’t know where to find them, or can’t consume the commonly utilized one’s due to health issues. The following six foods are probiotic powerhouses providing numerous health benefits in addition to unique flavors and gut-boosting properties.
Because yogurt contains many beneficial bacteria that help balance and maintain healthy gut activity it is a popular probiotic choice. It may be the most widely recognized and consumed food due to its high probiotic content. However, not all yogurts are created equal. Regarding gut health, it is best to consume live cultured or Greek yogurt that is made from organic cow, goat, or sheep milk. It is important to note that milk sourced from grass-fed animals provides significantly more nutritional benefit than the alternatives.
Furthermore, be wary of yogurts labeled as “probiotic.” Brands that produce this style of yogurt tend to incorporate excess sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, dyes, and artificial sweeteners into their product. Furthermore, “probiotic” yogurts are frequently pasteurized, which effectively kills all the good bacteria that one is looking for in a probiotic food!
A comparable and possibly superior substitute to yogurt is kefir. This thinner and smoother alternative can be made with a variety of milks including: cow, goat, sheep, coconut, and rice. The significant difference comes from the fermentation process. Kefir is made through a combination of the chosen milk and a gelatinous grain that imparts a unique probiotic culture during fermentation. This seemingly small difference means that kefir contains 10 to 34 helpful strains of probiotics, which is notably more than yogurt.
One of the greatest benefits of kefir is its ability to increase bacteria colonization. Where many probiotics are content with sustaining and maintaining good bacteria already found in the gut, kefir promotes its proliferation in the intestinal tract. Increasing the prevalence of good bacteria facilitates improved gut function.
There are few things that quench a craving for a hefty salty snack better than pickles. Fortunately for us, fermented pickles are an excellent source of probiotics in addition to being a tasty bite. Pickles have the added benefit of beginning as cucumbers which contain vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin B5, manganese, magnesium, potassium, and helpful phytonutrients. These elements have a positive impact on various bodily functions.
As with most store-bought items, it is important to know what it is you are really buying. Many pickle brands are neither fermented nor probiotic. When looking for probiotic boosting pickles it is important to choose those that are organic and unpasteurized. It may be easier to find a local vendor or ferment your own in lieu of scouring the grocery store for the perfect pickle.
Another fermented product that packs a powerful probiotic punch is kombucha. This drink made of fermented black tea frequently contains SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast). During the brewing process SCOBY is combined with sugar and tea to impart unique flavor and trigger fermentation that imparts significant probiotic value. When prepared correctly, this strong tangy drink provides various health benefits and is recognized specifically for being a digestive aid, increasing energy, and improving liver detoxification. Though this beverage offers many probiotic benefits, if made incorrectly there is risk of contamination. It is best to find a reliable source of good quality kombucha or get adequate training before making your own.
Many are familiar with miso soup but they may not be aware that the base for the dish is a powerful probiotic. Miso is made from fermented rye, beans, rice, or barley that is combined with koji, a fungus that uniquely influences fermentation. The process of making good quality miso paste can take several days to multiple years. Although most recognized as a base for soups, miso can be utilized as a spread or flavor additive to many dishes. If you’re looking for an easy probiotic snack, you can simply swipe some miso over your favorite cracker.
Like miso, natto is a predominantly Japanese food that is made through fermentation of soybeans. This sticky, strongly-flavored substance contains impressive amounts of probiotics and other helpful elements. Bacillus subtilis is one of the many probiotics found in natto and has been proven to improve immune system function, cardiovascular health, and absorption of vitamin K2 (which may improve blood coagulation, prevent tooth decay, and reduce risk of chronic disease). Natto also contains nattokinase, an anti-inflammatory enzyme that is known for its ability to combat cancer. Many describe the flavor of natto as being extremely pungent but if you can acquire a taste for it you will reap serious probiotic rewards.
Picking the right Probiotic for You
Even if your primary concern is not improving gut health, eating foods that contain high probiotic levels can help you achieve better bodily function. With a variety of options available there is sure to be a tasty probiotic treat that aligns with your tastes. Providing your body with these helpful nutrients is an easy investment that returns significant benefits!