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7 Probiotic Foods That Are Great for Your Gut

December 18, 2013

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There’s a bacteria war going on inside your body. Are you helping out the good guys?

Probiotics are good bacteria that are found in a variety of foods, with the most common being live-cultured yogurt and acidophilus milk. Yes, that’s right. They are live and active bacteria cultures, with scientific-sounding names like lactobacillus bulgaricus and streptococcus thermophilus.

But don’t be put off. These microscopic organisms work wonders for your digestive tract and immune system. In fact, a steady supply of probiotics may be helpful for irritable bowel syndrome, lactose intolerance, depression, and even an upset stomach. It’s been touted for relieving constipation, bloating, diarrhea, and uh, gas. Plus, these cultures have been found to fight off the bad boys, disease-causing bacteria. 

Give your gut ecology a mini-makeover with these natural probiotic picks.

Lacto-fermented vegetables

You’ve probably tried fermented cabbage in the form of sauerkraut or spicy kimchi. But did you ever make a homemade version? You can ferment veggies at home in less than a week using a Mason jar and salt water. For starters, try using beets, salsa, carrots, or garlic.

Prefer store-bought veggies in brine? Check out the refrigerated section of a trusted local health store or farmer’s market. Select one that’s not pasteurized or homogenized, since these processes destroy probiotic enzymes.   

Yogurt and soft cheeses

Live-cultured yogurt is the way to go to whip your gastro system into shape. Stay away from high-sugar varieties and probiotic imposters by paying attention to what’s on the product label. Yogurts that carry the “live and active culture” seal may contain a whooping 100 million cultures per gram.

Cottage cheeses are also gut-tastic, as well as soft fermented cheeses, such as Gouda, and some cheddars and parmesan. These probiotic-packed cheeses are all strong enough to balance out your gut flora.

Miso

Experiment with the versatility of miso paste in your sauces, soups and marinades to sneak more probiotic magic into mealtime. Miso is often used in Japanese cooking and is a mixture of soy bean, brown rice, and barley that’s been fermented by fungus. Use the paste to make salad dressing or cook up some wholesome miso soup.

Sourdough bread

Are you ready for lunch? Consider making a sandwich on artisan sourdough bread to reap the probiotic rewards. Authentic sourdough bread is made from a sourdough starter. It’s full of yeast cultures and bacteria that arise naturally in bread flour and dough through the long fermentation process.  

Kefir

Beyond acidophilus milk, try a sip of kefir. This cultured, tart milk-based product works to cleanse and balance the digestive tract. Similar to a dairy smoothie in texture and easy to drink down, kefir’s a delicious source of amino acids and vitamin B-12.

Kombucha

Have you tried kombucha? Made from wild bacteria and yeast, kombucha is a popular fizzy tea that’s been found to improve digestion, joint mobility, and cholesterol levels. In fact this nonalcoholic brew is surprisingly refreshing and energizing and it may even boost your immune health.

Do you prefer to get a probiotic boost from a drink or from foods like cultured yogurt and sauerkraut?