Probiotics are one of the buzziest health boosters out there, and a balanced microbiome = a healthy gut. Read on for the healthy probiotic-rich foods you need in your stomach.
Bacteria used to make us think of creepy crawly germs, but research has proven its health benefits. (Just see the influx of probiotic supplements, infused drinks, and snacks). In fact, having a lack of so-called "good bacteria" in the stomach has been correlated with obesity, depression and overall decreased immunity. And it's even been touted to prevent diabetes and heart disease by keeping arteries clear and blood flowing.
For years scientists had believed that bacteria in the stomach was incredibly diverse, making it a full-out chore to categorize, study, and generally make any health conclusions on. But, that's all changing; in a study in the journal Nature, researchers used gene sequencing to catalog the hundreds of species of bacteria in the gut and what they found was surprisingly simple. There are just three kinds of basic bacteria in all of our tummies. Sort of like how we all know our blood type, researchers say that knowing what type of bacteria we have in our stomachs may help to better understand and treat diseases.
But even if you don't know exactly what kinds of good bacteria are chillin' in your gut, you can still do something right now to improve it. Read on for five healty probiotic foods that are naturally high in the good bacteria that your stomach loves.
5 Healthy, Good-Bacteria Foods
1. Miso. This paste made from fermented soy is not only high in good bacteria, but can add a savory umami flavor to any dish (check out some creative ideas of how to incorporate miso into your meals). Buy it in a paste at a natural-foods store or your closest international or Asian market. Or, have it before you dine on sushi!
2. Yogurt. This is a no-brainer: yogurt is probably the best-known healthy bacteria food of all. Look for low-sugar and lower-calorie yogurts that contain lactobacillus, bifidus and acidophilus to reap the stomach-health benefits. If you don't do well with dairy, take a look at some healthy non-dairy yogurt varieties.
3. Sauerkraut. Think sauerkraut is just for Oktoberfest or a topping for ballpark hot dogs? Think again! This fermented cabbage mixture contains lactobacilli plantarum and has been shown to give your immunity system a big boost, along with helping with the digestion of lactose and reducing the growth of yeast (an awesome perk for the ladies who struggle with yeast infections). Even better, fermented foods can also keep your cholesterol low and metabolism high.
4. Kombucha. This type of fermented tea definitely has a unique, fizzy taste to it, but those who drink it swear by its good-for-you-benefits for your stomach and your overall wellbeing. It's also been sipped since the days of ancient China for its energy boosting and anti-inflammatory properties.
5. Kefir. Kefir is a fermented milk product that is a natural probiotic. The presence of the amino acid tryptophan (yup, the same thing in the turkey at Thanksgiving dinner) can help relax the nervous system. Found nowadays in everything from ready-to-drink smoothies to ice creams, kefir is usually better tolerated by those with lactose-intolerance than other diary-based fermented foods.
And if none of these foods sound good to you, consider supplementing your diet with a probiotic supplement, which you can find at any natural foods store. Cheers to happy, healthy tummies!
Jennipher Walters is the CEO and co-founder of the healthy living websites FitBottomedGirls.com and FitBottomedMamas.com. A certified personal trainer, lifestyle and weight management coach and group exercise instructor, she also holds an MA in health journalism and regularly writes about all things fitness and wellness for various online publications.