13 natural sources to improve your gut health

Natasha Breen

Are you eating enough probiotic foods? If you are new to the world of probiotics, these beneficial bacteria have been shown to provide incredible health benefits. Supporting weight loss, reducing the severity and duration of colds, improving sleep, and combating stress-induced flare-ups are just a few of the evidence-based benefits of probiotic foods.

“Probiotic foods have the ability to improve our gut health now and potentially prevent disease in the future,” says Jane Clarke, dietitian and founder of Nourish. “Extremely exciting research suggests that by helping to balance and increase the ‘friendly’ bacteria in our gut, probiotic foods can increase the diversity of our microbiome – the bacteria and other microbes that live in our bodies and are 10 times more diverse. many than our own cells. ‘

A balanced microbiome is crucial for your health. It helps digest food, protects against pathogenic bacteria, produces essential vitamins, and regulates your immune system, Clarke explains. “Microbiome imbalances have been linked to diabetes, heart disease, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, obesity and depression,” she says. “So a sauerkraut side with roast lamb, a spoon of avocado kimchi on sourdough bread, or a small glass of kefir a few days a week can be a great addition to your diet. “

While the food production process tends to destroy bacteria by design – both good and bad – there are ways to prepare certain ingredients so that they keep their probiotics alive and active, from the plant to the refrigerator and beyond. of the. Below, we’ve refined the benefits of 13 natural probiotic foods that are tasty, easy to prepare, and super versatile.

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Yogurt is made by heating milk and fermenting it with two gut-friendly live cultures: Lactobacilli and Bifidobacterium. However, not all yogurt contains these powerful probiotics – some processing methods kill them – so choose brands labeled with active or live cultures, or make them yourself. Homemade yogurt is the best source of probiotics, according to an Australian study.



Miso means “fermented beans” in Japanese. This pungent and rich seasoning is made by fermenting soybeans with salt and kōji – also known as Aspergillus oryzae. It is loaded with minerals, especially manganese, copper, and zinc, as well as plenty of protein and fiber.



Made by fermenting finely chopped raw cabbage with lactic acid bacteria (a process known as lacto-fermentation), sauerkraut is exceptionally nutritious. In a US Department of Agriculture study, a single serving of sauerkraut contained up to 28 distinct beneficial bacterial strains.



Kefir is a fermented drink made by adding kefir grains to cow’s milk, goat’s milk, or coconut water. This probiotic-rich liquid may help lower blood pressure by promoting communication between the gut and the brain, researchers at Auburn University have found.



Kombucha is a sparkling sweet and sour drink made by fermenting black or green tea with a specific culture known as “scoby,” a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. Drinking kombucha every day can extend your life expectancy, according to a rodent study from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.



Pickles – also called pickles – are cucumbers that have been fermented in saltwater brine. They contain probiotics due to lactic acid bacteria naturally present during the fermentation process. For info: not all pickles are fermented: those made from vinegar do not contain beneficial bacteria strains.



Like sauerkraut and pickles, kimchi is made by lacto-fermentation and contains lactic acid bacteria Lactobacillus kimchii. It’s usually made with cabbage (although other vegetables, like radishes and carrots, are often present) combined with salt, chili flakes, ginger, garlic, spring onions, and gravy. of fish.



Old-fashioned buttermilk is made from the liquid leftover churned butter, but these days it’s intentionally cultivated – adding lactic acid bacteria to low-fat pasteurized milk – so in stores you’ll often find it labeled “Cultured buttermilk”. Often used in baking, this fermented drink has a tangy and buttery taste, hence its name.



Sticky, viscous and nutty, natto is a traditional Japanese dish made from fermented soybeans with Bacillus subtilis. This potent probiotic strain reduces and prevents inflammatory responses in the gut while strengthening the gut barrier, research published in the journal Borders concluded.


Pickled olives

Rich in Lactobacilli, olives are often overlooked when it comes to probiotic foods. Unfortunately, not all olives offer probiotic benefits, so be sure to look for brines on the package. Eating Sicilian green olives for 30 days can reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, Italian researchers have found.



Kvass is a fermented, alcohol-free cereal drink made from bread – usually rye – although some recipes use root vegetables like beets and carrots, or flavor it with herbs and fruits. In addition to exceptional help from probiotics from the lacto-fermentation process, kvass is packed with nutrients including vitamin B12 and manganese.



Most cheeses are fermented, but not all of them contain probiotics, so stick to the raw, unpasteurized types. Swiss, provolone, gouda, edam, gruyere, mozzarella, cheddar and cottage cheese retain their bacterial benefits.



Tempeh is made by fermenting cooked soybeans with a mold called Rhizopus Oryzae then form the mixture into a firm, dense block. Consuming fermented soy products like tempeh is associated with a lower risk of death, according to a large observational study published in the BMJ concluded.

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