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Want a Healthier Gut? 12 Probiotic Foods to Add to Your Diet

So much of your health starts with your diet. After all, your gut health is connected to your overall well-being, including aspects you might not expect, such as heart health and mental health. So, if you’re looking to boost your health, consulting your doctor about the food you eat — along with the benefits of probiotic foods — is one of the best places to start.
You’ve probably heard of probiotics and how essential they are for a healthy gut. These living microorganisms can help promote the growth of good bacteria in your stomach. Plus, they have been associated with reducing depression, promoting heart health, boosting the immune system and improving skin. One theory on why probiotic foods improve our overall health is that good gut bacteria can help promote a healthy metabolism, which can prevent a wide array of disorders, such as obesity and diabetes.
Best probiotic foods for a healthy gut
If you want more probiotics in your diet, below are 12 excellent probiotic foods. In addition to these foods, you might also try probiotic supplements. Look for labeling that reads, “contains live cultures” or “contains active cultures” in these common probiotic foods.
Yogurt
A staple probiotic food, go for yogurt with live and active cultures. Some yogurts are even advertised to help aid digestion or promote their probiotic content. Yogurt usually has L. acidophilus bacteria, which can promote the growth of good bacteria in your gut.
Yogurt is a great option, because it’s easy to find. You can buy any flavor to match your preference and eat it right out of the container.
Kimchi
Kimchi is a traditional Korean side dish made by fermenting vegetables with probiotic lactic acid bacteria. Kimchi can give you that probiotic punch, especially with healthy ingredients like vegetables (most commonly napa cabbage, carrots, scallions and radish), garlic, red pepper powder, ginger and other spices. It makes a wonderful side and is traditionally served with steamed rice.
Kimchi is associated with research regarding anti-cancer, anti-obesity, colorectal health, cholesterol reduction, anti-aging, brain health, immune health and skin health properties.
Pickles
You might be surprised to learn that pickles can contain probiotics. You just have to make sure you buy fermented pickles — usually found in the refrigerated section of the health food aisle. Some brands even advertise probiotic content. They trend under the term “healthy pickles,” but be sure to read the labels to ensure they contain probiotics. You can even make them at home. Some people also drink or use the juice the pickles are fermented in. Note that jarred pickles tend to be high in sodium.
Sourdough
Sourdough starter contains lactic acid bacteria. The starter is the environment where yeast and good bacteria grow by consuming water and flour. Natural prebiotics and probiotics are listed in research as one of the benefits of sourdough bread. It’s also linked to better blood glucose control, reduced cholesterol, a lower risk of diabetes, reduced cardiovascular disease risk and improved weight control. Also, it makes a pretty good sandwich bread.
Kefir
Kefir is a fermented milk made using kefir grain. It starts as a normal cow’s or goat’s milk, and then a grain-like yeast and lactic acid bacterial colony called kefir is added to the milk. The mixture is left to ferment for around a day and then the milk is filtered from the grains, creating the kefir drink. The resulting drink is a powerful probiotic that actually packs more probiotics than yogurt.
Kombucha
Kombucha is a health drink that’s made its way into the mainstream in recent years, meaning you can find it in the drink aisle at major grocery stores. This drink is actually a fermented tea, so you’re getting the health benefits of tea with the probiotic boost of a fermented beverage. It’s made by adding strains of bacteria, yeast and sugar to either black or green tea, which leads to the drink’s probiotic-happy atmosphere. It ferments for about a week or more until it grows a mushroom-type texture on top. The mushroom gets filtered out to make new kombucha.
Sauerkraut
This German comfort food is fermented cabbage made by lacto-fermenting the vegetable in its brine and some salt. As part of the traditional fermentation process, probiotics are in the end product.
However, this is another product where you have to specifically buy probiotic sauerkraut or make your own. Many brands use vinegar and sugar or are pasteurized, which reduces the growth of bacteria and kills probiotics. Common canned sauerkraut is usually made with vinegar or it’s pasteurized (or both).
Miso soup
This Japanese food is served as a side to many meals. Miso is a paste typically made from fermented soybeans and works as a condiment to make sauces, spreads and soup stock. Miso soup uses this paste for the stock. Because miso is another fermented food type, it packs the probiotic punch. Miso soup works great with larger meals or makes a nice, light lunch on its own.
Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is twice-fermented apple juice. Apple cider vinegar has been making its rounds for years as a popular health supplement. It has natural probiotics from the fermentation process. Though apple cider vinegar’s benefits require further research, many people also use it for anything from calming acid reflux to weight loss. It has a strong flavor, so if you don’t like taking it directly, add it to salad dressing, marinades or pickling liquid.
Some cheese
Certain types of cheese have probiotics. For instance, aged cheeses that are not heated afterward tend to have probiotics. Examples include Swiss, Gouda, cheddar, Edam, Gruyère, cottage cheese and provolone. The good news is that many popular cheese types have probiotics, including a healthy bowl of cottage cheese with some fruit added.
Pickled vegetables
Along the same lines as the kimchi and pickles above, you can also look into any healthy pickled vegetables that specifically list having probiotics. One idea is to look into lacto-fermented escabeche, a pickled dish from Mexico that can contain a wide variety of vegetables. Or you can make a fermented giardiniera, an Italian pickle relish. Using fermented pickled vegetables is also a great way to shop locally and preserve vegetables for use out of season.
Buttermilk
Buttermilk may seem like a drink out of “Little House on the Prairie,” but traditional buttermilk can be an excellent source of probiotics. Buttermilk covers different types of fermented dairy beverages, but traditional buttermilk is the liquid skimmed out of the butter-making process. The trick is to avoid cultured buttermilk, which is the most common type in supermarkets and usually does not have probiotics.

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