Everything we eat passes along the gastrointestinal tract in the gut and research continues to discover more connections between our gut health and our overall health.
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. Probiotics are one strain of beneficial bacteria that is found primarily in the gut that helps keep your body healthy. (Learn about prebiotic fibers.)
This helpful bacteria 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 probiotics.
The main contributor to the diversity in the gut microbiota is diet. Taking probiotics (among other foods) can help keep your body and mind in good health. Here are some of the best probiotic foods you can add to your diet.
The Best Probiotic Foods
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.
The fermentation process contributes to probiotics in foods, research has found. So, you'll want to look for pickles in brine, not vinegar, which can typically be found in containers that are sold in the cooler section of your grocery store. The shelf-stable variety of pickles are not fermented – thus, they do not contain the beneficial bacteria.
Though it's stinky, we can’t talk about fermented foods without mentioning sauerkraut. Eating sauerkraut (in moderation) can help improve your probiotic intake according to one study.
Kefir is a fermented milk beverage that is similar to 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 trendy beverage is created by fermenting tea and sugar with bacteria and yeast. It comes in many flavors and brands. The variety of the beverage has made it difficult to research the benefits, and there is some doubt that it’s as beneficial as companies claim. However, while you shouldn't reach for kombucha as your main source of probiotics, it could still be one, and it usually is lower in sugar than soda but provides a similar fizz that consumers crave.
Yogurt is by far the most commonly known and widely available probiotics source, which may make it the best option for some people to easily add to their diets. You'll want to read the label first and choose a variety low in added sugars and high in protein.
We also recommend discussing your health goals with your licensed healthcare professional. They can best provide you with the diagnosis and treatment of any medical condition and assist you as well in deciding whether a dietary supplement will be a helpful addition to your regimen.