Many people like to keep up-to-date on the latest health news and trends, but all of that nutrition talk can get confusing. The concept of probiotics, the bacteria that lives in your digestive system, is typically pretty puzzling. For example, if this bacteria is already in your system, what can you do to enhance the job that it does. What is that job, exactly? Or, you may be wondering if it’s actually necessary for you to make room in your diet for more probiotics. Here is what you need to know about this bacteria and some of the best sources if you’re looking to enhance your diet with them:
“Probiotics help the body absorb nutrients from the food we digest.”
What are probiotics?
Many people associate the word “bacteria” with something negative. After all, nobody wants a bacterial infection. However, when it comes to the bacteria that live in your digestive system, they’re actually positive for your body. These probiotics help the body absorb nutrients from the food we digest. According to Precision Nutrition, the bacteria in your gut is also responsible for helping your body synthesize vitamins B and K; enhancing gastrointestinal motility, function and digestion; obstructing the growth of pathogens; metabolizing drugs; producing short-chain fatty acids coagulation, growth factors and cytokines; and helping to regulate intestinal mucus secretion and blood flow.
While there are trillions of probiotics in your body, and 400 strains, according to Probiotics.org, it’s still beneficial to eat foods that are rich in this bacteria. Harvard Medical School claims that a few of the health benefits from supplementing your diet with probiotics include easing gastrointestinal conditions and maintaining vaginal health – even treating conditions like yeast infections and urinary tract infections. Here are some tasty foods chock-full of probiotics to add to your diet:
- Kefir: Most people with dairy intolerances opt for almond or soy milk in place of regular cow’s milk. However, many overlook kefir due to the fact that it’s made from fermented goat, cow or sheep’s milk. The American Journal of Dietetics found, though, that this fermented beverage can actually improve lactose digestion in people who are lactose intolerant. In addition to being rich in probiotics, the kefir grains are also loaded with antioxidants. It has a tangy taste similar to yogurt but is thinner and easier to drink.
- Sauerkraut: If you’re going to indulge in a sausage or Reuben, the least you could do is top your snack with some gut-healthy sauerkraut. This fermented cabbage is loaded with probiotics, as long as the variety you opt for hasn’t been pasteurized, as well as vitamins B, A, E and C; iron and fiber.
- Sourdough bread: If you’re going to include carbohydrates in your diet, make sure you opt for a bread that has other benefits, like sourdough. Discover magazine states that this variety of bread not only contains lactobacillus, but because of this, it has it’s own distinctive flavor that’s versatile enough to be used in anything from French toast to a Thanksgiving stuffing.
- Yogurt: Of course, you can’t discuss probiotics without talking about yogurt, one of the most popular sources of probiotics in the Western world. However, that fro-yo likely isn’t the best decision if you’re looking to impact your gut health. According to Health, you should look for a short list of ingredients on your yogurt’s label in addition to live and active cultures and calcium if you want to ensure you’re eating a beneficial variety.