You’ve probably noticed the terms ‘probiotic’ and ‘gut health’ popping up all over the place lately in the media, on packaged foods and even in conversations among friends. It’s true that gut health is a vital part of overall health but creating and maintaining a happy gut environment isn’t as simple as popping a probiotic pill. That said, one of the key components for a flourishing microbiome is eating plenty of probiotic-rich foods, like kefir, sauerkraut, miso, and tempeh. Since these foods aren’t the norm for many people, we’ve come up with some simple suggestions to help you pile plenty of probiotic-rich foods onto your plate.
WHAT IS GUT HEALTH?
Believe it or not, there are more than 1000 strains and 100 trillion total bacteria living in your gut. In addition, the gut also houses fungi, protozoa, and viruses, all of which are collectively known as the microbiome. Although the word “bacteria” has a negative connotation, these critters are actually beneficial for the gut and overall health. Research has linked a healthy microbiome with increased immune health, neurological function, and digestive health.
Like the rest of your body, the microbiome requires a healthy environment to thrive. Poor diet, stress, lack of sleep, smoking, drinking excessively and a sedentary lifestyle can have negative impacts on the bacteria in your gut.
WHAT FOODS ARE GOOD FOR THE GUT?
Certain foods contain live bacteria that contribute to the health and development of the gut. These bacteria are sometimes referred to as “live active cultures”. Read the ingredients on Greek yogurt, and you will see things like L. Acidophilus and Bifidus, both of which are live bacteria.
Probiotics are abundant in fermented foods. During the fermentation process, the natural bacteria feed on sugar and starch, which produces various strains of good bacteria. This list of fermented foods are ripe with probiotics:
- Select soft cheeses
HOW TO EAT PROBIOTICS THROUGHOUT THE DAY
Although there are plenty of foods that naturally contain probiotics, they might not be your regular staples. But with a little planning, it’s absolutely possible to eat probiotic-rich foods throughout the day. Here are some tips to guide you down the gut health path at every meal.
- A smoothie is a great probiotic-rich way to start the day. Use Greek yogurt to get plenty of protein and good bacteria. For more of a probiotic punch, try this Mango Kefir Smoothie.
- If you’re feeling spicy at breakfast, top some of your scrambled eggs with kimchi. This fermented Korean cabbage is spicy, crunchy and packed with probiotics.
- Switch up your sandwich routine with some sauerkraut! Rather than going for boring old lettuce and tomato, add crunchy and tangy sauerkraut to any sandwich or wrap.
- Use miso, a fermented soybean paste, to turn salad dressing up a notch. It’s as simple as whisking together 1/2 cup rice vinegar, 1/4 cup white miso paste, 1/4 cup olive oil, and 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil.
- Snack time should be simple! Pack some of your favorite Greek yogurts, a cheese stick or a single-serve cottage cheese for a portable treat, or snack on crunchy pickles or salty olives.
- Go meatless tonight with tempeh, a fermented soybean cake that is versatile and easy to prepare. Either slice it, marinate it and cook it in a pan for 5 minutes or crumble it to make these Mexican Tempeh Stuffed Peppers.