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  • Dr. Christa O'Leary

10 Foods That Contain Probiotics for a Healthy Gut

It's no secret that diet plays a major role in our wellbeing. We all know the saying "you are what you eat." But did you know how important gut health is to your general well-being? A healthy digestive system helps reduce inflammation, which can lead to chronic pain and other issues like heart disease or cancer.

Probiotics are good for your gut because they help restore the balance of bacteria in your intestines. They can also help with conditions like IBS, Crohn's Disease, ulcerative colitis and more! That means probiotic foods like kefir, kombucha, yogurt, sauerkraut, miso soup (fermented soybeans), tempeh (fermented vegetables) and sourdough breads and crackers are great to help heal your gut.

So how does it work?

So glad you asked. We have about 1 kg of bacteria living in our guts, working away to break down food, absorb nutrients, produce vitamins that keep us healthy, fight infections and more! The good news is that eating fermented food is a great way to add good bacteria into your diet. When you consume probiotics, it makes its way through your digestive system and colonizes the gut area - basically populating the area with all sorts of healthy organisms (probiotics) that help our bodies function properly .

Here's how it works: When we take antibiotics (which can kill both bad and good bacteria), that leaves room for the bad bacteria to take over. This imbalance can lead to inflammation, digestive issues, certain autoimmune diseases and more! That's why it's important to eat probiotic-rich foods even when you're not sick. Consuming natural live cultures replenishes your gut so you can continue living a healthy lifestyle!

Not sure which foods are the best sources for probiotics? Well, here's a list of 10 healthy probiotic-filled foods that you should add to your diet ASAP.

1. Kefir

Kefir is a fermented dairy product that has many benefits, including improving digestion. It's an acquired taste, but it can be added to cereal or smoothies for some extra probiotics. You can even make your own kefir at home with ingredients like coconut or almond milk, kefir grains and some fruit for added sweetness.

2. Kombucha

Kombucha is a fermented black or green tea that contains probiotics and other health benefits like detoxification and de-aging (which we love). It's also full of antioxidants, polyphenols, amino acids and enzymes. Not only does it taste good, but some studies have shown that kombucha can help with weight loss, lower cholesterol and even prevent cancer growth.

3. Yogurt

Did you know that plain yogurt is a healthier choice than flavored? Flavored yogurts can have a lot of added sugar, which can mess up your gut flora balance. Plain or Greek yogurt contains live culture probiotics that are great for improving digestion and immune health. You can add fresh fruit or homemade granola for an extra boost of flavor and probiotics.

4. Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is made from fermented cabbage, which contains probiotics and other healthy nutrients like vitamin C, iron and fiber . It also has anti-inflammatory properties - so much so that it's even been shown to reduce the risk of cancer.

5. Miso Soup

If you've never had miso soup, then you're missing out! This Japanese hot soup is made from fermented soybeans, rice or barley. It contains probiotics to help improve digestion and immune function. Since it's also low in calories and sodium, it's a great choice for weight loss and simple to make with ingredients like water, miso paste, tofu or mushrooms.

6. Tempeh

A fermented meat alternative that's made from cooked soybeans with added grains like millet or rice, tempeh is an acquired taste for some people. However, it's a great source of fiber, plant-based protein and probiotics. You can buy it at grocery stores in the health food section or use it to replace meat in recipes.

7. Sourdough Breads & Crackers

Sourdough bread is made from fermented dough that contains natural yeast instead of added yeast - making it a healthier option than regular bread. It's also easier to digest and break down because the fermentation process reduces phytic acid, which can cause gas and bloating.

8. Fermented Vegetables

If you love your veggies, then you'll be happy to know that fermented vegetables like kimchi are healthy probiotic-filled choices. In addition to helping you digest your food better, they also contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

9. Natto

Natto is a popular Japanese dish that's made from fermented soybeans. It contains healthy bacteria that helps improve digestion and immunity, along with other nutrients like fiber, vitamin K2, omega-3 fatty acids and protein. Try it with a side of rice instead of sandwiched between bread for a healthier breakfast option!

10. Yogurt Cheese

If you don't eat dairy, no need to worry because yogurt cheese is a great alternative for probiotics. It's just plain yogurt that has the whey strained out - making it lower in carbs and calories than regular cheese. You can use it as a spread, dip or even substitute for cream cheese in recipes. Here's how to make your own yogurt cheese at home.

Final Thoughts

Probiotics are one of the most important supplements to include in your diet. They help improve digestion, boost immunity and even increase nutrient absorption so you reap more health benefits from the foods you eat. Aim for at least three servings a day of foods that contain probiotics like kefir, kombucha, yogurt, sauerkraut, miso soup, tempeh, sourdough breads and crackers, fermented vegetables like kimchi and natto. Fermented soybeans like edamame also contain probiotics so remember to add these foods to your shopping list!

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