Do you want to know which probiotic foods to eat to improve your health and well-being? In addition to breaking down food and absorbing nutrients, the gut has a massive impact on how well the body and mind function. Probiotics are live bacteria in food or supplement form that can help the digestive system function more efficiently by improving or restoring balance in the gut microbiome.
research from King’s College London in the UK found that what we eat affects our gut flora even more than genetics. The study identified a group of 15 “good” and 15 “bad” gut microbes that are linked to better or worse health outcomes, including inflammation, glycemic control and weight.
gut health is of course important, but how does it work and where do probiotic foods come into play? The enteric nervous system (ENS) in our gut communicates with the brain, and they work closely together to keep the body healthy and fight disease. This complex relationship is known as the gut-brain axis. One of the easiest things we can do to optimize this connection is to eat a diet high in probiotic foods or take probiotic supplements.
“Probiotics in food form are also referred to as ‘functional foods’ and increase the diversity of the intestinal flora in the large intestine,” says the practitioner of functional medicine Danny Ly. “When ingested, the live bacteria ‘compete’ with potentially disease-causing microbes in the gastrointestinal tract to try to inhibit their harmful effects.”
A wide and diverse array of “good germs” in the gut, he says, have also been shown to dampen allergies and sensitivities, support the immune system, reduce inflammation, improve nutrient absorption, and more. So here are the best probiotic foods to eat today to improve your gut health.
Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage loaded with healthy gut bacteria that can optimize and balance our gut flora.
“Sauerkraut contains high levels of glucosinolates, ascorbic acid, and ascorbigen, all of which have been shown to help reduce DNA damage and may help cancer patients by reducing the rate of cell mutation,” says Ly. “Glucosinolates also play an important role in our detoxification processes in the liver.”
“Kefir is a powerhouse of probiotic foods,” says Ly. “It’s rich in bacteria, which help produce our B vitamins in the colon, which are needed for optimal nervous system function and are the building blocks for important neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine — the feel-good hormones that promote positive feelings like joy, Happiness and even love.”
studies also suggest that kefir has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.
There is growing evidence of this kimchi — a Korean condiment made from fermented cabbage and spices — may increase the number of good bacteria in the gut, thereby improving gut health.
“Kimchi is a delicious and traditional Korean staple that’s been shown to help relieve constipation and lower cholesterol,” says Ly. “I would recommend consuming kimchi with whole grain toast for added fiber and eggs for protein for a healthy, gut-friendly breakfast.”
The relationship between the gut microbiome and the liver is still not well understood, but poor gut health has been linked to the development of fatty liver disease, according to a study published in the publication Journal of Clinical and Translational Hepatology.
“Miso, a fermented soybean paste from Japan, has been shown to have liver fat-reducing properties when combined with exercise, thus reducing the risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease — the term for a range of conditions caused by fat accumulation in the liver,” explains Ly.
Miso fermentation helps improve the body’s ability to digest and absorb food and contains probiotic gut boosters.
Another probiotic food to try for better gut health is kombucha, a fermented tea product rich in antioxidants.
“The fermentation process produces acetic acid, a short-chain fatty acid that has been shown to play an important role in regulating body weight and improving insulin sensitivity,” says Ly. “Kombucha also helps increase intestinal acidity. Consume cautiously if you suffer from heartburn. However, kombucha helps protect the digestive system from pathogenic microbes. Many kombucha drinks available in the supermarket contain a lot of added sugar so please check the label before drinking to avoid consuming too much.”
studies have shown that regular consumption of yogurt can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, maintain weight and improve cardiovascular health due to its calcium content.
“The lactobacilli and Bifidobacterium Species typically found in yogurt protect our immune systems and support healthy metabolism by increasing satiety signals to our brains,” says Ly. “Strained plain Greek yogurt naturally sweetened with your choice of high-fiber fruit like kiwis or mangoes makes a great gut-friendly, high-protein snack.”
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