When we think of bacteria, we typically think of harmful germs that can make us sick. But not all bacteria are bad. In fact, ingesting a certain amount of good bacteria–also known as probiotics–can improve your digestive system and treat conditions like diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome. If you’re confused about probiotics vs. prebiotics, think of probiotics as the healthy yeast and bacteria that live in your digestive system, while prebiotics feed the bacteria and keep it alive.
Want to improve your digestive health? Here’s just a few of the most probiotic-rich foods on the market:
For years, yogurt has been marketed as a rich source of probiotics. When you think of fermented foods, you probably think of sour, bitter foods like kimchi or beer. But yogurt is actually made from milk that was first heated up, then mixed with healthy bacteria to start the fermentation process. The result is a slightly tart, creamy dish that’s fortified with Lactobacillus acidophilus–a bacteria that’s commonly used for improving gut health.
While kefir has been around for hundreds of years, it’s only recently made its way to mass market grocery stores. Like yogurt, kefir is a fermented dairy product that’s packed with probiotics. Unlike yogurt, it’s drinkable and often sold in bottles or cartons. If you’re looking to get some extra probiotics to go, pour yourself a glass of kefir in the morning. You can even make kefir at home if you buy kefir grains online or borrow some from a friend. Kefir grains are a cluster of yeast and bacteria that resembles cottage cheese, and has everything you need for a healthy bacteria culture.
Kombucha also has a long history of health benefits, although like kefir, it’s only recently been introduced to the mass market. Kombucha is a fermented tea that’s packed with probiotics and antioxidants that can improve your digestive health. It comes in a wide range of flavors and gives you that boost of caffeine you need to start the day. The taste can be tart or sour, so if you prefer sweet drinks, you might want to try it out before buying an entire bottle.
Yup, you read that right–pickles are a good source of probiotics. But when you’re buying pickles, make sure they were fermented with salt and water, not vinegar–vinegar pickles might taste good, but they won’t have the helpful bacteria that you’re looking for. The salt in the brine reacts with the cucumbers to create a flourishing bacteria culture. This recipe is so easy that you can even make it at home, and you only need to wait a week to have a fresh batch of sour fermented pickles. Now you can snack on pickles as much as you want and feel good about your health while doing so.
If you’re a fan of miso soup, now you’ll have another reason to enjoy your favorite dish. Miso is a fermented Japanese soup stock that’s made from kelp and fish flakes. Miso is traditionally used to make soup, but you can also use it to make salad dressing, marinades, and more. It’s loaded with probiotics that can ease the symptoms of digestive conditions like inflammatory bowel disease. Just don’t add it to boiling water, or you’ll kill the probiotics in the broth.