Bacteria have long been mistakenly labeled as enemies – malicious invaders that should be avoided at all costs, only to make you sick if you encounter them. But as science has advanced, we have come to realize that not all bacteria are bad; some are actually beneficial to you. Trillions of bacteria live in the human digestive tract. Some modern science claims that there are more bacteria in our gut than cells in our entire body. These bacteria help digest and extract nutrients from everything we consume and can even help crowd out the harmful bacteria we interact with.
Probiotics are defined as live microorganisms or bacteria that are said to have positive health benefits when consumed. The most common are bacteria belonging to the groups called Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Different types of probiotics can have different effects on the body. For example, if a certain type of Lactobacillus helps prevent disease, that doesn’t necessarily mean that another type of Lactobacillus or any of the Bifidobacterium probiotics would do the same.
Every single person has a different, unique gut microbiome (the community of living bacteria in our gut). The gut microbiome is constantly changing and evolving based on lifestyle (what we eat and drink), the environment, medications like antibiotics, and even how we were born or fed as babies. It’s important to realize that we’re learning more and more about how this community of bacteria can affect our health (positively or negatively), our immune system, and even our mood. Pretty amazing and fascinating science that is still evolving as we research and learn more.
How your diet can contain probiotics
What we eat and drink can directly affect our gut microbes, particularly foods and supplements that we classify as probiotics and prebiotics. Probiotic foods often come in the form of fermented products as well as dietary supplements. Prebiotics are food components that microbes break down and use as energy; They also provide beneficial compounds like short-chain fatty acids that our bodies can use.
As you walk down the aisle at your local grocery store or pharmacy, the options are endless when it comes to a probiotic supplement. However, it’s difficult to really figure out what your specific gut needs as we all have highly individualized, unique gut microbiomes. The best way is to test your own gut microbiome through DNA sequencing. Pioneering companies like Sun Genomics’ Flore are now making it easy to test, evaluate and prescribe precision probiotics that best benefit your unique microbiome. If you’re not ready for all of that, there are foods that may have some probiotic benefits. When looking for probiotic foods, try to choose unpasteurized or raw products, as pasteurization eliminates most live beneficial bacteria.
1. Nancy’s 100% organic grass-fed yogurt
Probiotic yogurt has been linked to a number of health benefits, including digestion, constipation and bloating. Make sure you choose yogurt with active or live cultures. Nancy’s Organic Grass-Fed Yogurt contains over 41 billion live probiotics in every serving. Other good bacteria-packed options include Greek yogurt and oat milk with non-dairy probiotic cultures.
2. Kefir Lab Kefir
Kefir is a fermented milk drink that resembles thin yogurt, making it drinkable. It’s packed with a specific type of symbiotic culture, making it full of live cultures that have probiotic benefits. Kefir Lab takes a biomedical approach. Its probiotic shots contain 52 different probiotic strains. In addition, its kefir offers 24 different probiotic strains, each containing trillions of live probiotics in every serving.
3. Wildbrine Raw organic sauerkraut
Sauerkraut is a type of fermented cabbage with some great health benefits. In addition to probiotics, it also contains enzymes that help your body absorb nutrients more easily. Sauerkraut contains more lactobacilli than yogurt, making it an excellent source of this probiotic. Wildbrine makes their sauerkraut the traditional way, fermenting organic kale with salt instead of vinegar to preserve the live probiotics.
4. Cleveland Kitchen Classic Kimchi
Kimchi is a traditional Korean side dish made from salted and fermented vegetables such as Chinese cabbage and Korean radish. Cleveland Kitchen Classic Kimchi is an all-vegan kimchi packed with flavor. It’s bold with just a little heat. This fermented kimchi is made traditionally and is also packed with beneficial probiotics, most notably Lactobacillus and Leuconostoc.
5. Health goodbye kombucha
Kombucha might be the trendiest food on this list. Claims for kombucha are that it can improve digestion, boost the immune system, reduce inflammation, and prevent leaky gut syndrome. Numerous health benefits derive from compounds derived from the fermentation process of kombucha and its tea base, including some that affect gut health such as: B. antimicrobial effects. Definitely look for raw or unpasteurized kombucha for the most probiotic benefits. We like Health-Ade Kombucha; It is certified organic, raw, non-GMO, vegan and gluten-free. They’re also relatively low in sugar (around 12g per bottle).
6. Olive My Pickle Pickles & Cucumber Juice
Most people know that cucumbers are just pickled cucumbers. If you’re buying pickles for their probiotic benefits, choose brands with no vinegar and no added sugar. Pickles appear to have little to no probiotic benefits for your gut. Olive My Pickles are fermented with salt water and therefore contain naturally occurring probiotics. In fact, all of the brand’s pickled products say “Lab Verified Probiotic” right on the label because they use an independent lab to test the products. It also sells pickle juice or brine itself. Not only is LiveBrine loaded with electrolytes, but it’s also one of the most concentrated ways to get wholesome, plant-based probiotics. There are more than 14 billion colony forming units (CFU) per serving.
7. Small Town Cultures Raw fermented vegetables
The process of fermentation of any type of vegetable results in a variety of beneficial probiotics. The amount and type depends on the vegetable, the fermentation process, as well as the preservation process. Including a variety of fermented foods will help you reap the diverse benefits of probiotics.
Good for you and your gut, Small Town Cultures’ plant-based probiotics are made by hand in small batches. They’re packed with micronutrients, enzymes and probiotic fiber. Raw, fermented foods include sliced jalapeños, cardamom beets, turmeric kimchi, spicy radish, Meyer lemon and more to support your gut microbiome.
8. Transformation Factory Sea Moss Gel
Sea moss has many proven health benefits, most notably it provides your body with all the essential minerals. Sea moss also provides 92 of the body’s 102 essential minerals. Outperforming other algae, this marine superfood helps with inflammation, healthy mucosal support and digestive health. While it doesn’t provide any probiotics, sea moss may have prebiotic effects that could play a role in improving microbiome health.
Transformation Factory offers a variety of high quality sea moss gels. You can easily incorporate this prebiotic powerhouse into your daily routine. Mix into juices, smoothies, sauces or consume straight from the jar.
Jordan MazurMS, RD, is the director of nutrition for the San Francisco 49ers.
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