Probiotics: Health Benefits & 7 Powerful Food Sources
It might seem unbelievable, but your body is FULL of bacteria. In fact, these microorganisms outnumber cells by a ratio of 10 to 1!
The real question is what kind of bacteria do you have dominant in your gut? Are they Good or Bad?
You see, “good” bacteria serves an important purpose in maintaining optimal gut bio, which is one of the biggest factors relating to your overall health and wellbeing!
However, invasive habits like the regular use of antibiotics and/or consuming heavily processed, refined foods and drinks often kill a lot of your good bacteria.
And this creates an environment where “bad” bacteria proliferates - which is the number one cause of a long list of chronic health issues.
There are over 400 different kinds of bacteria in your digestive tract.
And "Probiotics" are the 'good' bacteria that you must have in your gut in order to keep the harmful bacteria at bay.
The good news is that you can control the environment of your gut 'flora and fauna' with what you eat and drink.
In fact, you can get probiotics from 7 powerful food sources which we'll share with you here.
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are living micro-organisms that stimulate a healthy digestive tract and immune system.
Fermented 'foods' have been the best sources of probiotics for thousands of years.
The problem today, is that due to increasing awareness around the benefits of gut health, supplement companies have jump on the 'probiotic' bandwagon.
Exercise caution in this area, by knowing your source and avoiding anything that comes in a pill or capsule. Far better to stick with food, drinks and certain powders can be beneficial.
Probiotics are not the same as "prebiotics". Prebiotics are actually dietary fibres which good bacteria in the gut feed on.
There are a large number of specific probiotic bacteria that are known to have positive health benefits.
Three of the most common groups of these types of bacteria are called Lactobacillus, Streptococcus and Bifidobacterium.
Gut Flora & Digestive Health
The colonies and communities of hundreds of different types of bacteria and other microorganisms that live in your digestive system are called the “gut flora”.
The majority of gut flora lives in the large intestine, or colon and undertake important functions such as producing certain vitamins like vitamin K and several B vitamins as well.
Due to its living nature gut flora is quite sensitive and can be adversely affected by a number of things including:
- Poor food choices
These can all either “unbalance” the natural equilibrium or outright destroy gut flora.
Damaged or unbalanced gut flora can contribute to serious health issues such as:
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Metabolic Syndrome
- Heart Disease
- Colorectal Cancer
- Alzheimer’s Disease
Probiotics and prebiotics which they feed on can help to reestablish a healthy gut flora environment and contribute to the digestive system functioning at it optimum.
What Are The Health Benefits of Probiotics?
For the reasons mentioned above, when consumed in sufficient amounts, natural probiotics can help to restore balance in the digestive system.
With gut health being fundamental in overall health and wellbeing, this fact alone has far-ranging benefits!
Reduce Gut Disorder Symptoms
Many people have reported an alleviation of symptoms related to the following digestive dis-eases:
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Crohn's Disease
- Ulcerative Colitis
Depression & Anxiety
These beneficial bacteria are:
- Lactobacillus helveticus
- Bifidobacterium longum
Thanks to their ability to lower “bad” cholesterol levels and blood pressure, probiotics can both assist in preventing heart dis-ease as well as promoting a healthy heart.
In addition to inhibiting the growth of "bad" bacteria, probiotics are known to strengthen the immune system.
They can also assist in preventing harmful substances from escaping from the gut into the rest of the body which can lead to immune responses.
Other immunity benefits include reducing the risk of getting infections and preventing colds and flu.
Promote Weight Loss
In several different ways, which are still not fully understood, certain probiotics can assist you to both lose and maintain a healthy weight.
They help to:
- Prevent the absorption of toxic sugars and fats
- Make you feel fuller after eating
- Shed belly fat
Studies have shown that probiotics have anti-inflammatory effects that can serve to reduce systemic inflammation, a common contributor to many health disorders.
Learn more in the blog: What is Inflammation & How to Reduce It In Your Body
There's increasing evidence that probiotics are beneficial for the following skin conditions:
Food Sources of Probiotics
Probiotic cultures are most commonly found in the following food groups:
- Raw, Organic Dairy Products e.g. Yogurt, Kefir and Cheese
- Fermented Foods
- Organic Soy Products
Wherever possible you want to make sure that the original sources of the ingredients are organic and raw.
It's even better if you can make your own at home!
The oxidant and microbial activity of propolis and royal jelly also make them awesome probiotics.
As a result of the health benefits of probiotics becoming widely acknowledged a number of "probiotic supplements" have come onto the market.
Take care with these because added chemicals or substances can render them useless, or worse, can sometimes cause unwanted side effects.
The best source is from "living" foods and these are some of the most powerful options:
1. Yoghurt & Cheese
With its wealth of probiotics, yoghurt is a natural way to re-stock your inventory of friendly, good bacteria.
Researchers have tested other specific probiotics in yoghurt and found many of them cause your body’s defence system to kick in.
Make sure your yoghurt contains live and active cultures in order to get this benefit.
Look for types that also haven’t been heat-treated, since heat kills the beneficial bacteria.
Certain types of cheeses are excellent sources of probiotics. Their low acidity and high fat content preserve the micro-organisms as they journey through the digestive tract.
Just be sure to select cheeses that are "aged" and/or made from "raw pasteurized" cows or goats milk. "Organic" usually means that the animals have been fed only grass, which is also a really good thing to look out for.
Some of the most commonly found cheeses which include these are:
- Cottage Cheese
A fermented milk drink, Kefir contains about 30 different micro-organisms, making it one of the most potent sources of probiotics and its well suited to people who are lactose intolerant.
For this reason, Kefir is a very effective aid for digestive health and weight management.
3. Cultured Vegetables
When put through a "lacto-fermentation" process vegetables which are cultured can become powerhouses of probiotics!
One of the best vegetables in terms of probiotics is cultured cabbage and two of its most popular forms are:
A traditional food in Europe, sauerkraut (literally meaning "sour herb" in German) is finely shredded cabbage fermented by lactic acid bacteria.
A spicy Korean side dish, kimchi in addition to cabbage is sometimes made with other vegetables and seasoned with chilli, garlic, ginger and salt before going through the fermentation process.
Often used as an alternative to meat, tempeh is a food made from fermented soybeans. In addition to being a good source of protein and antioxidants, it's also packed full of probiotics.
Made by fermenting soybeans with a form of fungus and salt, creating a "paste", miso is a Japanese seasoning most often used to make a soup. As well as being delicious and refreshing, it'll also give you a good dose of probiotics.
This increasingly popular tea drink is fermented with good bacteria and yeast, naturally making it rich in probiotics. Normally available in a number of varieties, be careful though to avoid brands that contain artificial flavours, colours, processed sugar or other chemicals. Learn more in the blog: Cancer-Causing Chemicals in Supermarket Foods
Made from cucumbers fermented or "pickled" in salted water, pickles, sometimes called "gherkins" are a fantastic source of probiotics.
In addition to eating more probiotic foods, you can also help the good bacteria in your gut to thrive by also eating "prebiotics" which as mentioned previously act as a food source for them.
Prebiotics are basically certain fibres from plants that are undigestible but provide nourishment for the probiotic bacteria which live in your large intestine.
Some of the best prebiotic food sources are:
- Chicory Root
- Dandelion Greens
- Raw Garlic & Onions
- Apples & Apple Cider Vinegar
Even thousands of years ago, Hippocrates (the ancient Greek physician), taught that the vast majority of human discomfort and dis-ease begins in the gut.
For this reason, it's so important to pay attention to your gut health, and ensuring you get enough probiotic food sources into your diet, is one of the best ways to achieve this.