I’m a huge fan of probiotics. I actually drink DanActive (a dairy-based probiotic drink) on a daily basis to strengthen my immune system. Probiotics are “friendly bacteria” or “good bacteria,” which are believed to help promote a healthy digestive system.
You have naturally friendly bacteria that grows in your gut. This friendly bacteria is essential to the healthy development of the immune system, and it protects against microorganisms that might cause illness. Plus, you need that friendly bacteria to help you digest and absorb the food that you eat. The friendly bacteria can be killed off by antibiotics and disease-causing bacteria and parasites. To replenish your supply, you should consider eating probiotic foods or taking a probiotic supplement.
It is believed that 60 to 70 percent of all the immune cells in your body resides is in the GI tract. By introducing probiotics to your digestive tract, the theory is that you can strengthen the immune system‘s defenses. (If you want to learn more about probiotics, check out the National Institutes of Health’s fact sheet on Probiotics.)
Food Sources of Probiotics
If you’re looking to get more probiotics into your diet, consider eating the following foods. Here are my top 7 probiotic foods for a healthy digestive system.
Yogurt is one of the best known food sources of probiotics. “Good bacteria” found in most yogurts include lactobacillus or bifidobacteria. When choosing yogurt, make sure you find a brand that has “live and active cultures.”
If you have never tried this fermented milk drink, try it out. Kefir is similar to a drinkable yogurt. It is thick, creamy, and tangy, but kefir has several strains of probiotic bacteria, as well as beneficial yeast (which is why it’s sometimes used to make breads – like sourdough).
3. Sourdough Bread
Who doesn’t love sourdough bread? This delicious bread makes the perfect toast, or lunch sandwich. Sourdough bread contains the probiotic lactobacilli. So if you love sandwiches, why not eat more sourdough – a delicious probiotic food.
Sauerkraut (the fermented cabbage used in German cooking) contacts the beneficial bacteria, lactobacillus and leuconostoc . When buying sauerkraut, buy the unpasteurized versions. Pasteurization (which is typically used for most supermarket sauerkraut) kills the active bacteria. Here’s another reason to load up on brats. Sauerkraut is a probiotic food that’s loaded with vitamin C and other immune-boosting nutrients that may keep illness away. If you love Asian food, you can find similar health benefits in Kimchi (the spicy fermented Korean dish). Kimchi is actually considered one of the healthiest foods, since it’s rich in lactobacillus, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin B1 and B2, iron, vitamin C, and other nutrients.
5. Acidophilus Milk
One of the best ways to include more probiotic foods into your diet is by drinking a glass of acidophilus milk. This milk has been fermented with the friendly bacteria lactobacillus acidophilus. Another probiotic food that makes delicious biscuits – buttermilk! Buttermilk is also rich in beneficial probiotics, since it’s cultured with lactic acid bacteria.
6. Miso Soup
Craving Japanese tonight? There’s a great reason to order up some Miso Soup. This popular Japanese soup is made from fermented soybean paste, and it contains over 160 healthy bacteria strains. Miso soup can really boost your digestive system, and it’s low in calories, high in B-vitamins, and full of cancer preventing antioxidants.
If you’ve never tasted this probiotic food, you should definitely try it. Tempeh is a fermented soybean product from Indonesia. It has a veggie patty texture, and some people describe the flavor as nutty, smoky, or similar to a mushroom. You can use it in sandwiches (Mellow Mushroom has the best tempeh hoagie), or as a main dish as a substitute for meat. It can be sauteed, fried, marinated. Tempeh is a delicious probiotic food that can improve your digestive health.