By: Ariel Johnston
Everything we eat passes along the gastrointestinal tract and advances in science are discovering more connections all the time between our gut health and our overall health, including mental health. Many sayings in the English language have been pointing us to this connection between our gut and our mood for years. For example, getting a bad piece of news is, ‘like a kick in the gut’ or feeling nervous can be described as, ‘having butterflies in your stomach.’
The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is embedded with millions of bacteria that live, grow and metabolize in a complex system of both good and bad bacteria that make up what is known as the microbiome. The beneficial bacteria are referred to as probiotics. These helpful probiotics can help ensure good health, prevent diseases, improve your immune system, promote normal GI function, and help your mood. With all the good benefits these little guys can provide it’s important to have a diet rich in them.
The main contributor to the diversity in the gut microbiota is diet. Having a diet rich in probiotics and prebiotics can help keep your body and mind in good health. Prebiotics are fermented dietary fibers that help stimulate the good bacteria in the colon. Here are some of the top foods containing both probiotics and prebiotics.
A staple in Korean cuisine, kimchi is a lactic acid bacteria dominant food that can help with constipation, cholesterol reduction and strengthening the immune system**. Cabbage and radish are the most common vegetables used and is often spiced with chili that give it a spicy kick.
Similar to other fermented foods, look for the containers that are sold in the cooler section of your grocery store and not the shelf stable variety. The shelf stable variety of pickles are not fermented – thus, they do not contain the beneficial bacteria.
We can’t talk about fermented foods without talking about sauerkraut! One study found 28 different strains of lactic acid bacteria present in commercially prepared sauerkraut, so eat up!
Kefir is a fermented milk beverage that is not unlike yogurt but with a thinner consistency. It’s perfect to add to smoothies and is also high in protein, vitamin D and calcium. It is also low in lactose, meaning it is suitable for those that are lactose sensitive.
This fermented beverage comes in a variety of flavors and brands. The vast variety of this beverage has made it difficult to research the benefits and there is some doubt that it’s as beneficial as companies claim. However, it still could be, and it usually is lower in sugar than soda but provides a similar fizz that consumers crave.
This is by far the most commonly known and widely available probiotics source, which may make it the best for some. Your best bet is choosing a variety low in added sugars and high in protein.
**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.