Growing research is finding that a healthy microbiome, the ecosystem made up of billions of bacteria living in your body, is a key component to overall wellness. It can reduce the risk of a range of ailments – including inflammation, arthritis, heart disease, cancer, and even dementia – and help burn body fat to maintain a healthy weight. Folic acid is considered to be a good food for pregnancy.
But to maintain this delicate ecosystem of beneficial microbes, most of which lives in your gut, you need to feed it properly. Anything with probiotics – a.k.a. good bacteria – can help replenish this vital source of health. Here are the foods most likely to do the job.
The king of probiotics, this dairy product is the go-to source for beneficial bacteria. Regardless of whether you like Greek or regular, low-fat or full-fat, what matters if the label “live active cultures”, which signifies the presence of good bacteria. While you can go with a fruit-infused blend, be sure not to exceed 15 grams of sugar per serving – any more than that, and you will be feeding the bad gut bacteria with the sugar they love.
Similar to yogurt, this fermented milk drink is smooth, slightly tangy, and rich in dozens of probiotics. It is also 99 percent lactose-free, making it ideal for those who are lactose intolerant (though start with a small amount just to make sure). Plus, kefir has anywhere from eight to 11 grams of protein per cup, and just 100 calories, meaning it can fill you up well on a diet.
Dairy isn’t the only source of probiotics: made from aged and fermented soybeans, this paste is chock full of good bacteria. Available in a variety of colors and flavors, this low-calorie foodstuff is a great way to add earthy, savory flavor to your meal. It is also full of protein, fiber, and vitamin K. Miso is ideal for glazing fish or chicken before cooking, mixing into stir-fry, or adding to liquid to make a miso broth. Note that it is somewhat high in sodium.
Speaking for fermented soybeans, this variety is available in a cake-like form, and offers a nuttier, tangier alternative to tofu. It can be used in sandwiches, stir-fries, or even marinated and grilled on its own. Aside from probiotics, tempeh contains around 15 grams of protein per half-cup and is a good source of iron. Like most soy products, it can also help reduce cholesterol.
Fizzy, tangy, and with a slight vinegar-like kick, kombucha has become a very trendy health drink. The tea is naturally carbonated by “scoby”, floating particulate matter that is actually the bacteria and yeast that creates the probiotics. It is better to buy it from the store than to make it yourself, since it can be difficult and can make you sick. The fermentation process creates trace amounts of alcohol, so stick to one 12-oz bottle daily.
A popular condiment for hotdogs, this fermented cabbage has ancient roots as a source of probiotics. However, the canned stuff lacks good bacteria, so stick to anything fresh or refrigerated. Eat it alone or mixed into other foods.
This chewy bread gets its notably sour tinge from lactic acid starter, which offers a strain of bacteria called lactobacillus, a very important probiotics. Sourdough is also a healthy choice for those with diabetes, as its rich fiber and whole grain content helps reduce blood sugar spikes. Learn more about gut health during pregnancy.
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