Probiotics are the latest nutritional buzzword. These friendly bacteria help to give your immune system a boost and keep your digestive tract healthy. Research shows that probiotics may be helpful for treating intestinal conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, infectious diarrhea and diarrhea that comes from taking antibiotics. They may even help to ward off the common cold and other viruses because they boost immunity. Probiotics may also be beneficial for treating digestive complaints like excessive gas.
You can take probiotics in pill form, but why spend the money when you can get them naturally through foods? Here are six natural sources of probiotics that’ll help you get the benefits of these benevolent bacteria without swallowing a pill.
Eating yogurt is one of the easiest and tastiest ways to get a healthy dose of probiotics. Look for yogurt that is clearly marked with the words “contains active cultures.” Otherwise, you won’t get the probiotic benefits. To maximize the health benefits, choose plain yogurt that has as little sugar as possible. You can always sweeten it naturally by adding your own fruit.
Acidophilus milk is milk that’s been fermented with lactobacillus bacteria. It has a flavor that’s tangier than non-fermented milk, although some manufacturers treat it to mask the “fermented” flavor. It’s also slightly thicker in textures. You can find it at most health food stores and natural food markets.
Tempeh is a fermented soy product that’s popular with the vegetarian culture as a meat substitute since its high in protein. It has a somewhat smoky flavor and takes on the taste of whatever sauce or marinade you cook it in. If prepared properly, it has a chewy texture that’s similar to meat. It’s also a natural source of probiotics to keep your immune system and intestines healthy.
Sauerkraut and Kimchi
Fermented cabbage is another good source of gut-friendly probiotic bacteria. Most Americans are familiar with sauerkraut but may not have tried its spicier cousin, kimchi. Kimchi refers to fermented cabbage, or sometimes other vegetables, that are seasoned with a variety of spices and flavorings such as onions, garlics and peppers. This gives it more of a “kick” than sauerkraut. Both forms of cabbage contain probiotics. Unfortunately, jarred or canned sauerkraut is pasteurized, which destroys the good bacteria. To get the benefits, make your own at home.
Kefir is another fermented milk drink that’s growing in popularity because of its health benefits. It’s made by adding yeast and bacteria to milk to create a tangy, bubbly drink that’s similar to a fizzy yogurt. You can find it at most natural food markets and health food stores in both plain and fruit flavors. Drink it for a healthy digestive tract and immune system.
If you’ve ever dined in a Japanese restaurant, you probably enjoyed a steaming bowl of miso soup before your meal. This soup was made from fermented soybeans, although miso soup can also be made using fermented chickpeas, barley, rice, buckwheat or rye. Miso paste is low in calories and is a good source of genestein, a compound that may have anti-cancer benefits. Plus, it’s loaded with intestinal-friendly probiotics. You can buy miso paste at most natural food markets and make your own probiotic-rich miso soup at home.
The Bottom Line
Enjoy these natural sources of probiotics. They’re tastier than swallowing a probiotic pill.
World’s Healthiest Foods website.
Medscape Education. “Benefits of Probiotics Reviewed”
Natural News. “Probiotics Prevent Colds and Flu”