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15 benefits of probiotics (and how to find one that actually suits you)

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated – March 17, 2020 ✓ Evidence Based

Many people naturally have probiotic-rich foods in their diet, but if you are struggling with gastrointestinal health, eating a more probiotic -rich diet may be beneficial.

Role of Probiotics or Fermented Foods

Probiotics or fermented foods are foods that contain live bacteria cultures that can improve the microflora environment of your gut. The beneficial bacteria in the stomach is incredibly important both for digestion and immune health, so eating foods that are high in probiotics is an easy (and delicious) way to boost your overall health. Fermented foods are a particularly rich source of these important bacteria. [1]

Foods Rich in Probiotics

The best probiotic-rich foods include kefir, traditional yogurt, tempeh, miso, kombucha, natto, buttermilk, sauerkraut, dark chocolate, and green olives, among others.

Probiotics are good for you and are found in many foods. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Yogurt

One of the most common probiotic foods that find their way into your diet is yogurt, but be sure that you only get yogurt from goat’s or sheep’s milk, and be sure that it comes from grass-fed organic animals, as these will provide the highest level of probiotics. [2]

Tempeh

This fermented soybean product is popular with vegetarians and vegans and will deliver a good amount of probiotics, as it is cultured using Rhizopus oligosporus and can work wonders on your digestive system. [3]

When you ferment soybeans, brown rice or barley with a particular type of fungi, called koji, you can create miso. This is a popular Japanese food and can help to rebalance the bacteria in your gut. [4]

Kombucha

This drink is gaining popularity all over the world and it is made by fermenting black tea with a blended colony of bacteria and yeast. This creates a powerful beverage that can detoxify the body and stimulate digestive processes.

Natto

When you ferment soybeans, you can induce the growth of a powerful bacteria called Bacillus subtilis, which has been proven to protect the heart, reduce inflammation, and increase nutrient absorption. [5]

Dark Chocolate

Known as a sweet treat, dark chocolate can support the wellness and functioning of bacteria in the gut and is known to regulate bowel movements.

Green Olives

After fermenting green olives, you can create an antioxidant and nutrient-dense probiotic food to improve digestive speed. [6]

Kefir

This fermented probiotic drink is made from cow’s or goat’s milk and helps in increasing bone health, improving digestive health, and staves infections . [7]

Kimchi

Kimchi is a Korean side dish, often having cabbage as its main ingredient. It is rich in lactic acid, iron, and other key minerals, which help in improving the digestion.

Pickles

Pickles (pickled cucumbers) are one of the popular probiotics used all over the world. They are prepared by adding cucumbers to water and salt solution. These pickled cucumbers are left to ferment for some time and then they become a healthy source of probiotic bacteria, which smoothens the digestion.

Beer & Wine

Fermented alcoholic drinks like beer and wine also contain many of the probiotic benefits. They are a great source of antioxidants and vitamins, which help in reducing blood clots and regulating cholesterol levels.

Green Peas

Green peas contain Leuconostoc mesenteroides, which is a potent probiotic that boosts the immune system. They are widely available and can be added easily to one’s diet.

15 benefits of probiotics (and how to find one that actually suits you)

One of the biggest trends in healthy eating over the past few years has been a push to load up on probiotics , meaning foods or supplements containing the type of bacteria that promotes a healthy gut. Probiotics are not without their downside , as they can lead to side effects including stomachaches, headaches, and allergic reactions, yet overall they are pretty beneficial.

Probiotic foods themselves are nothing new, it’s just that until recently we didn’t really know much about the whole “healthy bacteria” thing. Some of the most probiotic of foods – sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, and pickles – have been around for centuries, though probiotic supplements (actually, supplements in general) are a much more recent health trend. So why should you be including probiotic foods in your diet?

The List spoke with Dr. Gregory Bernstein, gastroenterologist and adviser to newly launched digestive health brand FRISKA, and he shared a number of ways in which probiotics can help your body feel better when you make them a regular part of your daily diet.

Taking probiotics every day benefits your body and mind

15 benefits of probiotics (and how to find one that actually suits you)

Bernstein defines probiotics as “beneficial microorganisms that are ingested in food or supplemental form,” and explains that these “good bacteria” can promote good health in several different ways. For one thing, he says they can help to boost the immune system. He adds that “not only [can they] thwart . inflammation, illness or infection, but [help] prevent them as well.” He also recommends probiotics for good digestion, saying that they can treat or prevent a range of conditions including diarrhea, bloating, gas, stomach pain, and constipation. Probiotics may also have the power to regulate and maintain blood sugar levels, helping to prevent spikes in blood sugar that Bernstein warns can lead to weight gain, hypertension, and diabetes.

Not only are probiotics good for the body, but they may also be able to support mental health. Bernstein credits these beneficial bacteria with the power to prevent or control both anxiety and depression. For optimal mind and body wellness, he says many of us could benefit from “taking these on a regular basis, and thus keeping a plentiful supply of ‘good bacteria’ in our intestinal tracts.”