It might seem outlandish, but certain types of bacteria are actually beneficial to our health. In fact, our bodies contain an abundant amount of bacteria, both good and bad. The good stuff are known as probiotics, which are live, health-boosting microorganisms that are naturally found in our bodies yet can also be extracted from food and drink. These microorganisms camp out in our guts and protect the body from disease and illness. Here, we’ll take a closer look at the health benefits of probiotics, and specify some probiotic foods that maximize their intake.
Probiotics have been linked to numerous health benefits. Digestive specialists rave about them, recommending probiotic foods to treat disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome and improve digestion in general. Building up healthy bacteria in the intestines can also help ease gastrointestinal symptoms associated with lactose intolerance.
Given that 70%-80% of our immune system resides in the gut, probiotics are strongly recommended as a means of warding off invading viruses and controlling harmful bacteria in the body. They thus act as a barrier against allergies and illnesses such as the common cold.
As well as keeping our gut and immune system in harmony, a growing body of research points to even more wide-ranging health benefits of probiotics, including improved urinary, vaginal, skin and oral health.
While probiotic supplements are common, doctors agree it is better to source your daily intake from probiotic foods that are often plant-based and deliver additional nutrients, vitamins and antioxidants.
Pickled and fermented vegetables ensure a generous probiotics supply. These include the likes of sauerkraut, pickled ginger, kimchi and sour pickles, all of which drive healthy bacterial strains into the body. Pickled foods do come with high sodium levels, however, so a measured intake is key.
Common dairy products such as yogurt, kefir, milk and soft cheeses are also notable probiotics sources, but for those seeking to steer clear of the dairy path, nut milks and non-dairy yogurts offer more nutritional value.
For soup lovers, look no further than the Japanese staple miso. Made from fermented soybeans, miso soup is both an antioxidant and probiotics powerhouse, supplying the body with over 150 bacterial strains that bolster our health. Again, a sodium-related caveat is required here, as is moderation.
Another fermented soy product containing probiotics is tempeh, a nourishing food with an earthy taste that is made from whole soybeans. Commonly used as an alternative to tofu, tempeh is weighted with a healthy dose of probiotics that line the intestines with the aforementioned digestive benefits.
In addition to foods, there are also drinks that can fast-track a supply of probiotics to the body.
Kombucha tea, a fermented drink that is made by combining black tea and sugar with a colony of bacteria and yeast (kombucha), is perhaps the best known. After fermentation takes place, kombucha becomes carbonated and delivers a high concentration of probiotics, b-vitamins and enzymes to the body.
Water kefir and fermented sodas are other probiotic-rich drink options.
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