Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that help balance your internal flora and maintain a healthy metabolism. The truth is, most of us could use more of them on a daily basis. You could take a pill, sure, but there are more delicious ways to ensure that you incorporate enough probiotics into your diet. Here are five of our favorite ways.
1. Kefir and Greek Yogurt
Yogurt and kefir are two of the most familiar source of probiotics. Both contain tons of good bacteria like acidophilus, lactobacillus or bifidobacteria that help balance your delicate internal flora. If you’re worried about dairy, there are studies that suggest that probiotics can help ease lactose intolerance. Any brand that lists “live and active cultures” among the ingredients is a good choice, but make sure it’s organic to avoid other potential side effects of dairy.
image: Omar de Armas
Arguably the hottest thing in the beverage industry right now (even Celestial Seasonings is making their version), kombucha is a form of fermented tea. It’s been used for centuries for various purposes, like increasing your energy levels and maintaining a healthy weight. The large amounts of healthy gut bacteria formed during the fermentation process are the key to kombucha’s health benefits. Always read the ingredients to make sure you are getting authentic kombucha, not a kombucha-flavored beverage. Or, best of all, try and make your own.
3. Sauerkraut and Kimchee
Long heralded in Europe for its health benefits, sauerkraut contains the probiotics leuconostoc, pediococcus and lactobacillus. The health benefits of this fermented cabbage is limited to the homemade or more artisanal varieties, as pasteurization (used to treat most supermarket sauerkraut) kills virtually all the helpful bacteria. The spicy Korean version of sauerkraut, kimchee, is equally loaded with probiotics, as well as vitamins that help ward off infections.
image: Quinn Dombrowski
4. Miso Soup
It’s time to look at miso soup as more than a sushi lunch accoutrement. This fermented soybean paste can really get your digestive system moving, as it contains hundreds or beneficial bacteria strains. In Japan, it’s often enjoyed as a breakfast food, perhaps to kickstart the metabolism.
image: Kathie Lapcevic
Like most fermented foods, pickles contain lots of good probiotics. Look for naturally fermented varieties that were pickled without vinegar. A pure mix of sea salt and water makes a great pickle brine, that encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria.
When you’ve managed to fill your gut with beneficial probiotic strains, it’s important to keep them happy. Prebiotics feed the good bacteria that already live in your system and can be found in foods like asparagus, bananas, oatmeal, legumes, honey, maple syrup and red wine. Consider mixing foods rich in probiotics with those rich in prebiotics (red wine and pickles anyone?) to maximize your body’s ability to absorb them.
Top image: haley. s