I’m sure all of you know that bacteria live inside your body. But some of them are good bacteria, and some of them are bad bacteria. Probiotics, for example, are live bacteria that are good for your health and digestive system. Consuming probiotic foods is great for your gut health. And if you didn’t know, most diseases come from gut inflammation.
So, instead of thinking of bacteria as something bad that can cause a disease, think of them as something that might help you. The interest in probiotics started back in the 1990s, when people started learning about their health benefits. Back then, doctors started suggesting probiotics to help with digestive issues. Nowadays, you can find probiotics in just about everything, even chocolate.
Now, before we get to the probiotic foods, you need to know that half of us carry harmful bacteria in our system, and 15% of us might develop an ulcer. So, consuming probiotic foods is a way to prevent that.
How do they work?
It’s simple to understand how probiotics work. On one side, you have good bacteria, and on the other, you have bad bacteria. Researchers have been trying to find out how probiotics work for years. But they always come back to two main conclusions.
First, probiotics replace your good bacteria. If you are wondering how you lose good bacteria, it is after taking antibiotics. The second way probiotics help you is by balancing the good and bad bacteria, which essentially allows your body to function properly.
Most importantly, probiotics help your digestive system by allowing food to move through your gut. Some of the conditions that probiotics prevent and treat are irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, infectious diarrhea, and antibiotic-related diarrhea. Some researchers also suggest they can prevent colds and allergies, help with skin conditions, and improve our oral health.
There are seven types of friendly bacteria: lactobacillus acidophilus (1), lactobacillus bulgaricus (2), lactobacillus reuteri (3), streptococcus thermophilus (4), saccharomyces boulardii (5), bifidobacterium bifidum (6), and bacillus subtilis (7).
That being said, let’s take a look at some of the probiotic foods you should consume on a daily basis.
Let’s start with the simplest, best, and most common and popular probiotic you can think of: yogurt. Greek yogurt is best. The thing you need to look for is goat milk yogurt. Also, check the label to see if the yogurt is infused with extra forms of probiotics.
In addition to being a great probiotic, yogurt made from goat milk is a great source of proteins, minerals, and vitamins. More importantly, goat milk yogurt is easier to digest than cow’s milk. In addition, cow’s milk can be an allergen.
Last, but not least, check the label for corn syrup. Some yogurts, especially fruit versions, are rich in high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavors and sweeteners. Do not buy them.
Kefir is another popular probiotic. Fermented from goat milk and kefir grains, kefir is high in lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. Even more importantly, kefir is high in antioxidants, further improving your health. The thing you need to remember about kefir is that the organic version is the best. Check the local health food store for homemade, organic kefir.
Goat milk kefir is great, but if you want to take things to the next level, look for coconut kefir, made from the juice of young coconut and kefir grains. This option is a bit more expensive, but it comes dairy-free. While it does not have as many probiotics, being dairy-free is a plus for those allergic to dairy. And it does come with some extra strains that deliver health benefits. If you don’t like the taste, add some stevia, lime/lemon juice, and water to the mix. This will give you a great healthy cocktail.
I’m sure that when you think of vegetables, you rarely think of probiotics. But sauerkraut, which is actually fermented cabbage, is extremely rich in probiotics. Some other fermented vegetables are good options too, but sauerkraut is the best. In addition to probiotics, fermented cabbage is rich in vitamin A, B, C, and K, and can help with allergy symptoms.
I said at the beginning that the popularity of probiotics has helped them make their way to chocolate. Now, on its own, dark chocolate is not part of the probiotic foods list. However, chocolate is a very good carrier for probiotics, helping them survive the pH of the digestive tract. Consuming dark chocolate helps probiotics make their way to the colon. And it’s because of this protective ability that I’ve included chocolate on the list.
Microalgae is just a term we use for a group of plants like blue-green algae, spirulina, chlorella and other ocean-based plants. They are all superfoods, and they help by feeding the probiotics in your gut. Just to be clear: the plants themselves are not probiotic. But if you consume them, they will feed and nourish the good bacteria already living in your gut. Think of them as a reproductive tool for probiotics.
Japanese cuisine is extremely rich in probiotics. One of the reasons is miso soup, a staple in traditional Japanese medicine. You cannot imagine macrobiotic cooking without some miso soup. This soup is made of barley or rice, fermented rye, and then a tablespoon of miso, all mixed in hot water. A quick recipe you can throw together for dinner, miso soup is rich in healthy nutrients. In alternative medicine, miso soup is believed to be effective in cancer prevention. The soup stops the effects of carcinogens in our system.
Another mainstay in Japanese cuisine is natto, made from fermented soybeans. In addition to being rich in probiotics, natto is also rich in anti-inflammatory enzymes that help with cancer prevention.
The biggest benefit of consuming natto is that you boost the production of and enhance the digestion of vitamin K.
When I talked about fermented cabbage, I said other vegetables can be probiotic foods too, and one of them pickles. Some people think of pickles as fermented cucumbers, but they very different.
Some people love pickles, some hate them, but everyone agrees on their healthy potential.
You might say that vegetarians get a great deal of probiotics. Tempeh, a substitute for meat that some believe is better than tofu, is another great probiotic food. A fermented grain made from soybeans, tempeh is also rich in vitamin B12. Some want to eat tempeh baked, and some just add it crumbled on salads. The best thing is that tempeh is low in salt, making it ideal for low sodium diets.
This is the Asian version of fermented cabbage. The main difference is that unlike sauerkraut, kimchi is extremely spicy. Served in Korea as a side dish, kimchi is also rich in vitamin B and vitamin C, as well as minerals such as iron, potassium, and calcium. As long as you can handle the spiciness, kimchi is one of the best and healthiest foods.
In the past 10 years, kombucha tea has become one of the most popular beverages. Even green tea has lost its title to kombucha tea.
Rich in healthy gut bacteria, kombucha is a fermented probiotic drink that helps you lose weight.
Another fermented beverage, this one is popular in Eastern Europe. Made from rye or barley, kvass has evolved and moved on to fermented beets, fruits, and root vegetables.
The beverage has a mild sour flavor, and is great for cleansing your blood and liver from toxins and harmful bacteria.
Since we talked about goat milk, we must talk about goat cheese as well. Sheep milk cheese, and other soft cheeses, are also great probiotic foods.
The only thing you need to pay attention to is to buy raw, unpasteurized cheese.
Apple cider vinegar
I would like to finish this list with one of the healthiest foods and beverages you can find. Apple cider vinegar is a staple in home remedies. The reason is simple: the inexpensive drink provides a number of vitamins and health benefits. One of them, of course, is providing your body with good bacteria. The best way to consume it is to add it to a salad dressing. Of course, if you can stomach the taste, dissolve a teaspoon in a glass of water and drink it.