Gut health is essential to overall well being and a major contributing factor to this is probiotics. You can take probiotics in a supplement form, but eating foods that are rich in these natural immune-boosting microbes is a more delicious way to get these healthy bacteria into your gut. This can be easy to do since there is no shortage of probiotic-rich foods, including:
- Dark Chocolate
- Sourdough Bread
Let’s take a closer look at these ten probiotic-rich foods and how consuming these (and other foods rich in probiotics) can help you improve gut health and overall well-being.
1. Yogurt – Probably the most widely-known and frequently consumed probiotic food is yogurt. It is easily found in any grocery store and can safely be eaten by people of all ages on a daily basis to help add beneficial bacteria back into the gut. A study published in mBio, the journal of the American Society for Microbiology, found probiotics in yogurt can even help reduce uptake of mercury and arsenic levels — especially in pregnant women.
2. Sauerkraut – Another food rich in probiotics that is ready available in stores is sauerkraut. Made simply from cabbage and salt, it’s also incredibly easy to make yourself. It contains more beneficial lactobacillus bacteria than yogurt and even has anti-cancer properties.
3. Kimchi – Filled with probiotic lactic acid bacteria, this traditional food is eaten with gusto by Asian cultures and has been gaining popularity in North America. The Journal of Medicinal Food notes that kimchi provides a number of health benefits including: “anti-cancer, anti-obesity, anti-constipation, colorectal health promotion, probiotic properties, cholesterol reduction, fibrolytic effect, antioxidative and antiaging properties, brain health promotion, immune promotion, and skin health promotion.”
4. Dark Chocolate – Because chocolate is a fermented food, it contains beneficial probiotics. There are also several compounds in cocoa that research has shown to help with everything from boosting skin health and blood flow, to reducing inflammation, blood pressure, and risk of cardiovascular disease.
5. Kombucha – Long thought of as a beverage choice of hippies, kombucha has become a mainstream drink choice thanks to its high level of probiotics. Several flavors can be found in most major retailers, but it’s another food that’s easy to make yourself. Those who are immunocompromised should steer clear though due to a slight alcohol content and potential for food safety issues.
6. Miso – This staple of Asian cultures is rich in flavor and probiotics, due to being made from fermented soybeans. It also contains a number of trace vitamins and minerals including vitamins E, K, and B, as well as copper and zinc. Research has also found that including moderate amounts of soy foods in one’s diet to be beneficial.
7. Kefir – Similar to yogurt, kefir is a fermented dairy food that has a consistency perfect for drinking. It packs a powerful probiotic punch and has a slightly effervescent mouthfeel, thanks to the 10-20 different bacteria strains that are typically used in its production.
8. Tempeh – Another soy-based food, tempeh is a popular protein choice for vegetarians and has been a traditional food of Asian cultures for generations. It’s also an excellent non-dairy source of iron and calcium, and a 2015 study found that it can even provide anti-tumor and anti-inflammatory effects when eaten sparingly.
9. Pickles – You probably eat them all the time without realizing that pickles are a food source of probiotics. Thanks to the vinegar used in the pickling process, both the pickles and their juice can help increase levels of healthy bacteria in your gut. They’re even reported to be curative for hangovers, heartburn, and PMS!
10. Sourdough bread – Not only does sourdough contain beneficial probiotic bacteria, but the unique fermentation process that occurs in its production allows it to be more easily digested by those with gluten sensitivities.
How Probiotics Help to Bolster Immune Health: What the Research Shows:
While there are an infinite number of probiotics and research is still somewhat new, many studies have found that eating foods rich in probiotics can help replenish the healthy bacteria in your gut after taking antibiotics, as well as relieving unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome.
The American Gastroenterological Association also shares how probiotics are beneficial to people of all ages, and how maintaining a healthy balance of gut flora can boost overall health.
Foods With Probiotics to Help Prevent Cancer:
Research out of UCLA has found that healthy gut bacteria can help to prevent cancers, and eating probiotic-rich foods is one way to help bolster these beneficial microbes.
“If the good bugs in the gut outnumber the bad bugs, you’re less likely to develop some of the conditions that we know are highly associated with obesity and certain cancers and a whole host of things,” Cleveland Clinic dietitian Kristin Kirkpatrick told WebMD.
Certain probiotics in foods or consumed via probiotic supplements can help to reduce inflammation in the body, which in turn directly contributes to lowering the risk of developing many diseases, including cancer, heart disease, arthritis and more.
As you can see, it’s easy to add foods with probiotics into your daily diet in order to reap the many health benefits of these immune-boosting bacteria.
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