If you need to improve the health of your gut, health experts always encourage you to eat more probiotics. These beneficial bacteria, which naturally occur in the gut, can improve immune function, optimize nutrient absorption, and increase cognitive function. Above all else, probiotics are necessary for optimal digestion.
When you include more probiotics in your diet, you can experience a wide range of health benefits. A review of several studies found that people who consumed probiotic-rich foods daily experienced a reduction in cholesterol levels and allergy symptoms. And the great thing about probiotics is that you don’t have to buy fancy supplements! In fact, most nutritionists advise against probiotic supplements and encourage the consumption of probiotic-rich foods, especially fermented foods.
How Many Probiotic Foods Do You Consume?
There is no definitive answer because each person’s microbiome is unique. The general guideline is that people should consume a wide variety of fermented foods every day. The reason for this is because the process of fermentation promotes beneficial enzymes, nutrients, and species of healthy bacteria. Start consuming the following probiotic foods and your gut will thank you.
Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage and it contains more organic acids than probiotics. Why should you eat it? Well, those organic acids support the growth of good bacteria in the gut. Sauerkraut is also rich in lactobacillus, a natural lactic acid bacteria, and beneficial digestive enzymes.
Kimchi is a staple side dish in Korean cuisine, and people make it with gochujang, a spicy paste made from fermented soybeans and salt. Bok choy, Napa cabbage, and a variety of garlic and peppers are the classic ingredients in kimchi. According to a 2014 study, daily kimchi consumption helped reduce the risk of constipation, obesity, and cancer. The same study also found that it improved brain and immune function.
Most sushi restaurants serve natto sushi because it is very popular in Japanese cuisine. Natto is fermented soybean paste that contains Bacillus subtilis, a powerful probiotic that offers incredible support to the cardiovascular, digestive, and immune systems. Another reason to consume natto is because it contains nattokinase, an anti-inflammatory enzyme has been scientifically proven to prevent blood clotting.
Think of kefir as the more powerful, tangier cousin to yogurt. To make kefir, milk is seeded with kefir grains, which are actually tiny bundles of bacteria and yeast. Then you let the milk sit and it ferments into a tart drink that is rich in beneficial probiotics. Several studies found that drinking kefir reduced allergy symptoms and gastrointestinal distress.
A lot of people are aware of miso soup, which is possible because of miso paste, a fermented paste of soybeans, rice, or barley. Miso paste is rich in colony forming units, making it an excellent source of naturally-occurring probiotics. You can add miso to salad dressings, marinades, or use it to make the classic miso soup.
This is another fermented soybean product, and it is commonly used as a meat substitute in vegan or vegetarian meals. You get tempeh by adding tempeh starter to soybeans and allowing it to ferment for one or two days. You can grill it, sauté it, bake it, and marinate it.
There has been an uptick in kombucha sales in recent years, due to the gut-healing benefits that come with drinking it. That isn’t to say that kombucha is a new, revolutionary beverage; rather, it has been around for over 2,000 years, originating near Japan. The fermentation of black tea starts by using a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). There are many flavors, which have a mildly sour taste because of the fermentation. Many reports claim that drinking kombucha regularly helps to increase energy levels, promote liver detoxification, and support digestive function.
This isn’t popular in the American diet, but people commonly drink it in Eastern Europe. It originated in Russia and used to have a similar fermentation process to beer, only kvass used stale rye bread in place of barley. Beet Kvass, however, uses beets as the starch source and whey to accelerate the lacto-fermentation process. The longer you let the beets ferment, the more the flavor develops. Beets already contain beneficial fiber that supports healthy digestion, and fermenting them only enhances these properties.