You have probably noticed that probiotics are making headlines. But, do you know what they are? Probiotics are the microbes or the good bacteria just like those living in your intestinal tract. We have over 100 trillion of them living in our gut. More probiotics in your diet means that you can help repopulate your gut with beneficial bacteria. Studies are showing that these good bacteria can reduce inflammation, autoimmune disease and even weight gain. Probiotics are used to treat eczema, arthritis, asthma, allergies, irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, constipation, lactose intolerance, obesity and more. However, the beneficial effects and the degree of benefit appears to vary from person to person. Because there is little to no potential harm in including probiotics into a diet, it is recommended that we incorporate these healthy bacteria into our diets.
You can get probiotics by eating fermented products such as yogurt, kefir, aged cheeses, kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, "kombucha"and some soy drinks. I will describe each of these below:
- kefir: a naturally fermented milk or sugary beverage with similar benefits to yogurt. Add to smoothies, use in cereal or just drink as is.
- kimchi: traditional Korean fermented vegetables with chili (the most common known is the fermented cabbage). Use it to stir fry with other veggies, in soups, scrambled eggs or eat with rice.
- sauerkraut: traditional German fermented vegetables (commonly fermented cabbage). Use in sandwiches, eat with fish or sausage or over a salad.
- miso: traditional Japanese fermented soybean paste. Commonly used to make miso soup, but also popular in salad dressings, sauces and to marinade meat and fish.
- tempeh: fermented soybeans with a slightly smoky, nutty flavor like mushrooom. It can be marinated and replace meats.
- kombucha: tangy and effervescent tea, black or green. Often flavored with herbs or fruit.
You can also include foods that promote growth of good bacteria ( also called prebiotic) such as banana, onion, green onion, garlic, leeks, asparagus, artichokes, soybeans and whole-wheat products. They are usually high in fiber. Remember that fiber is found only in plant based foods.
The opposite is also true. If your diet is rich in foods that promote growth of bad bacteria, you may experience more intestinal and inflammatory problems. Limit foods such as red meats, sugar, animal fats and processed foods.
For your optimum gut health, incorporate more whole plant based foods and minimize processed foods. For more specific information, consult with your local registered dietitian.