How often have you heard the expression “you are what you eat”?
This is partially true. However, it goes deeper than this and I’d say that you are what you absorb. All the great food in the world doesn’t mean a lot if your body is not digesting and absorbing it properly. Today we’re looking at how important gut health is not only for digestion but your overall health and immunity, and what natural probiotics you can include in your diet to have a healthy gut.
Probiotics and your gut health
Your gut or microbiome is a collection of bacteria that are critically important for how your body functions. The majority of the DNA in your body is actually taken up by these gut bugs and by definition, you are technically more bacteria than you are human. These gut bugs are keeping you alive along with protecting you against germs, breaking down food to release energy, making vitamins and even controlling your mood.
When the balance of good to bad bacteria gets out of whack, then you can be looking at issues like:
Excess internal gas
Bloating and cramping
Development of food intolerance
Your immune system will also be suppressed leading to easier sickness. Your gut balance can be thrown off by things like sugar, antibiotics, alcohol, lack of physical activity, smoking and not getting enough sleep among a bunch of other things.
So, how to improve your gut health? Probiotics can help.
Probiotics are bacteria or yeast that reside in our body and help in improving our overall health. They help in stimulating the natural digestive juices and enzymes in our body that keep our digestive organs functioning properly.
Probiotics also help in maintaining a strong immune system. They fight bacteria that cause diarrhea and are useful in treating many other ailments as well. Good and healthy digestive system usually means overall good health. Incorporating probiotic in your regular diet is a good idea for all of us. But, it should be done gradually. The quantity consumed should be gradually increased.
Top 10 Natural probiotics to include in your diet
Since you want as many good gut bacteria as possible, here are the best food sources to find them in:
Tempeh is a fermented soy product that is made with a yeast starter which gives it a bit more of a meaty, tender bite to it. It’s why you find vegan meat and bacon alternatives made from it. It’s a great probiotic source that is very versatile to use but also contains a lot of protein. In a 3-ounce serving, you’ll get around 16 grams of protein.
Saltwater brined olives undergo a natural fermentation. Since olives contain lactic acid bacteria, this helps give them a good probiotic content. There are two different strains of live cultures associated with olives that are helpful to combat bloating and helpful for people with irritable bowel syndrome. (And no it’s doesn’t count if you get your olive content from happy hour martinis!)
Yes, this is actually a probiotic source. Dark chocolate contains fiber and your gut bacteria is able to break down and ferment this and other compounds and also creates anti-inflammatory effects that boost your health.
You want to make sure that you’re consuming dark chocolate that has at least 70% cacao in it and not a Toblerone that’s the size of your head. A square or two a day can provide you with some great health benefits.
Kimchi is like the Korean sauerkraut. It’s made from cabbage but can also include other vegetables and is seasoned with things like garlic, red chili flakes, ginger, and salt etc. The lactic acid bacteria in kimchi helps make it great for digestion and contains vitamins, minerals, and iron.
Apples are rich in dietary fibers. Researchers aren’t very sure whether apples are actually rich in probiotic or not. But, studies show that by eating apples regularly, the ‘good’ bacteria that help in producing short-chained fatty acids, provide favorable pH conditions for ensuring a beneficial balance of microorganisms. As the age-old saying goes “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”.
Soy milk, made from pressing soybeans, is naturally laden with probiotics. It is a complete and nutrient-dense drink. The packaged soy milk available in the markets may also have some extra live cultures added. Soy milk is also rich in protein and is lactose-free, making it perfect for people who are lactose intolerant.
Don’t wait for Oktoberfest and a beer stein the size of a Buick, sauerkraut is good all the time! Similar to pickles, sauerkraut is shredded cabbage that is fermented by lactic acid and bacteria. It’s easy to make and can last for months in the fridge.
Along with probiotics, it contains vitamin C, vitamin B, and antioxidants. It’s easy to use on said sausages or hot dogs, can be a side dish, in sandwiches and even in stews. (And no a hot dog is NOT a sandwich.)
This is probably the main go-to food choice for probiotics but you want to be sure of a few things first.
Many commercial varieties of yogurt are more deserts than a health food especially the ‘fruit on the bottom’ types. Most of these colorfully packaged yogurts contain so much sugar that you’re probably taking a few steps backward.
Go for natural, unflavored and make sure that it says on the package what it contains. If the package doesn’t indicate clearly its nutrients and ingredients, there’s a good chance that a lot of the good bacteria was destroyed during processing.
The Japanese seasoning is made by fermenting soybeans with salt and a fungus called koji. It’s turned into a paste and is popular for use in soups. Besides probiotics, miso is a good source of protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.
Yep, the Snooki favorite! You’re looking at cucumbers that get pickled in salt and water and left to ferment using their own lactic acid bacteria. Pickles made with vinegar don’t contain probiotics but traditional pickles do. They will also give you Vitamin K and are low in calories. Remember not to go with the deep fried variety though.
Kefir is similar to kombucha in which it’s a fermented beverage but this time coming from milk. This does sound a bit weird but is very healthy. It’s made with ‘kefir grains’ which are strains of bacteria that give the milk its probiotic content and gives a light carbonation. It’s also full of a ton of nutrients, protein and looks to be a better probiotic source than yogurt.
You can use it as a marinade, salad dressing and even in baking.
Kombucha is a fermented beverage that is filled with probiotics. It’s made from sweetened black or green tea. Many brands now include other healthy ingredients in it such as ginger, chai, or a greens extract.
Kombucha is extremely popular right now and easy to find. It’s best to start with 4 oz a day and can be consumed on an empty stomach in the morning or at any other points in the day.
Probiotic foods list doesn’t end here, there were a few! Probiotic food aids in the absorption of calcium as well as in preventing allergies. A normal healthy person can consume probiotic food containing about two million live organisms. Those suffering from diabetes, cancer and other such long-term illness should consult their doctors before incorporating probiotic foods and drinks in their regular diet.
But remember, excessive consumption of probiotic can lead to indigestion and bloating.
So, join the bandwagon and add a little probiotic to your daily diet. Your gut will thank you for it!
Do you consume homemade probiotic food or do you purchase it from the market?