Despite the fact that we as humans are trained from early on that bacteria is bad and we should be killing it via sanitizer and aerosol sprays full of chemicals, the fact of the matter is that not all bacteria is created equal. Quite the contrary, there are many different kinds of bacteria, and some are not only “good” but downright essential. One of these more beneficial bacteria are called probiotics, and they are essential for your gut health.
Okay, but what does that mean exactly? Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, who is the author of 2-Day Diabetes Diet, explains: “Some of these beneficial bacteria aid digestion, whereas others can impact the immune system or fight against dangerous bacteria that can cause infections such as strep throat and gingivitis. Others can even impact mood.”
While you can take probiotic supplements, most nutritionists agree that eating probiotic-rich foods help nourish the probiotic bacteria already present in your body.
Now that that’s been cleared up, you might be wondering how you can incorporate probiotics into your diet. These are some natural probiotic foods that you can easily incorporate into your diet and improve your overall gut health.
Kombucha is really having a moment: it has grown to become an $800 million industry, with over 350 different kombucha companies producing the probiotic drink. Kombucha is a fermented tea that is slighty fizzy and contains live bacteria that help your digestive system.
Yogurt is known for containing bacteria that is a part of the lactobacillus group, which can also help with promoting healthy digestion. Just make sure that you’re reaching for the plain variety, otherwise you’ll be marring the benefits with a ton of added sugar.
Kefir is made by adding kefir grains, which are live yeast cultures, into milk. Similar to yogurt, kefir boasts a probiotic called Lactobacillus kefiri that aids in protecting the stomach from harmful bacteria. However, its consistency is quite different from yogurt, and may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
Miso, which is often known for being the base ingredient of Miso soup, is a paste which consists of fermented soy beans as well as koji. Koji is a type of mold found growing on rice that is actually safe to consume. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, miso “contains millions of microorganisms similar or identical to those beneficial bacteria that live in your large intestine.”
Saurkraut may be known as a popular hot dog topping, but don’t count it out for its health benefits. It’s literally just fermented cabbage, but it still packs quite the punch. While the cabbage ferments, live bacteria is produced. These bacteria contribute to gut health benefits. The cabbage is also a great source of fiber.
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