It’s no secret… your gastrointestinal tract – or gut – is filled with billions of bacteria and microbes – aka gut flora.
While many of those bacteria are actually good for you, there are others that aren’t. When the balance between good and bad bacteria goes the wrong way, you’re at risk for a wide range of digestive problems. Fortunately, there are several foods that can help make sure you have a good supply of beneficial bacteria.
Here are nine gut-friendly foods that you should consider making a part of your regular dietary routine.
The Big 9 – Your Gut’s Friendliest Foods
This fermented drink is typically made from goat or cow milk. You can think of it like drinkable yogurt. It’s filled with probiotics, or beneficial bacteria, that help offset the harmful ones. The result? A good assist for your gut health.
Making kefir is simple – just add kefir grains (which are actually probiotic cultures) to milk. The cultures multiply and ferment and 24 hours later you’ve got kefir. You can even take the grains from the liquid and repeat the process.
Kefir contains about 30 different strains of beneficial microbes, so it is an incredibly diverse source of probiotics. One strain, Lactobacillus kefiri, has been shown to help inhibit the growth of the harmful Helicobacter pylori strain – a strain associated with severe gastrointestinal problems.1
But it doesn’t just provide you with beneficial bacteria. It also provides other key nutrients like vitamin B12, magnesium, vitamin D, calcium, protein and phosphorous.
2. Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is also a rich source of probiotics and contains several types of beneficial bacteria. It’s become hugely popular in mainstream grocery stores, but you need to be careful when buying it.
Why? Because some brands might be labeled Greek yogurt, even though they’re basically just regular yogurt with gelatin added for thickness. True Greek yogurt should only have two main ingredients – probiotic cultures and milk.
The beneficial bacteria in Greek yogurt help boost your immune system and protect you from digestive problems like leaky gut syndrome. This problem occurs when the walls of the intestines become weak. Of course, when this happens, toxic microbes can enter the digestive tract. Clearly, nobody wants that.
Also, Greek yogurt is loaded with protein, which helps build strong muscles, cartilage, bones, and skin.
Furthermore, it can give you added energy. Getting enough protein is even more important as you get older. In fact, people 65 and older need about a gram more per day than younger adults.2 Greek yogurt’s also high in calcium, which can play a key role in helping keep your bones and muscles healthy and strong.
Sauerkraut is basically fermented cabbage. While you can get it in your local grocery store, you need to make sure that it hasn’t been pasteurized. Pasteurization can be an important food safety process, but while it kills bad bacteria it can also destroy your good microbes.3 If your sauerkraut is pasteurized, you won’t get the probiotic benefits.
Sauerkraut’s also filled with beneficial microorganisms that act as reinforcements to the good bacteria in your gut. There are nearly 30 beneficial strains in sauerkraut that are great for gut health. They help you avoid digestive problems like diarrhea and constipation.4 They also help your body do a better job of absorbing nutrients from the foods you eat.
Kimchi is the delicious Korean version of sauerkraut. Kimchi is made through a fermentation process that produces beneficial bacteria. The longer it ferments, the more bacteria develop. People have known for decades that kimchi can be a very effective way to reduce the symptoms of many different digestive issues.
Beyond being tasty, Kimchi is also pretty high in fiber. Of course, fiber helps promote a healthy digestive tract too. And fiber also helps lower your “bad” cholesterol levels. Also known as LDL (low-density lipoprotein cholesterol) bad cholesterol can contribute to heart problems. In addition, fiber helps you feel full after a meal, which will reduce the chances you’ll overeat.5
Next up – artichokes. They’re a great source of prebiotics, which are fibers the body can’t digest. But guess what… probiotic bacteria can.
They serve as a critical energy source for the good bacteria that live in your gut. Artichokes also contain a substance known as cynarin, which helps produce bile. And bile is important to your digestive process because it helps your body do a good job of absorbing nutrients. If you don’t have enough bile, there’s a good chance you won’t get the nutrients you need from the food you eat.6
Kombucha is a fermented tea that contains a lot of beneficial bacteria. Many people drink it instead of soda – and you should too. The fermentation process that goes into making kombucha not only produces good bacteria, but also several different B vitamins. Some of the bacteria in kombucha also produce cellulose, a substance that protects cells.
Kombucha also acts as an antioxidant, which helps to protect the body from the effects of oxidation. Antioxidants inhibit the growth of free radicals, dangerous molecules that can damage cells and tissues. Beneficial bacteria, such as those found in the drink, also help stop the formation of the dangerous candida yeast in your gut.7 And it’s a good thing too because candida is associated with many serious health issues.8
7. Miso Soup
Believe it or not, miso soup is extremely popular in Japan – and not just for lunch or dinner. The Japanese love to serve miso soup at breakfast. It has a salty taste and comes in a variety of colors, including yellow, red, brown and white. Miso is not only high in good bacteria, it also contains vitamin K, copper, and manganese.
Not only do bananas taste great, they’re filled with healthy fiber and beneficial bacteria. They’re also high in magnesium and potassium. Also, bananas have almost no fat, so they’re super low in calories. In fact, a banana only has a little more than 100 calories.
And bananas help to regulate blood sugar levels and control appetite too.9 There’s even evidence that eating bananas can also help with weight loss.10
One of the best superfoods out there, blueberries not only taste great in muffins, they also contain beneficial bacteria and a lot of vitamin C. Of course, vitamin C can help improve the texture of your skin and also protect you from the sun’s ultraviolet rays.11
The fruit might also help improve your cognitive functioning. One study involved a group of people who were in mild cognitive decline and ate blueberries each day for four months. According to the results, they not only showed improved cognitive performance, their brains functioned better overall.12
Blueberries are also rich in magnesium, calcium, and potassium which can lower the risk of developing high blood pressure.13 They can also help make your heart healthier because they contain anthocyanins. These substances not only give blueberries their unique color, they might also reduce the risk of a heart attack.14
One Last Thought
You never want to start any new dietary routine or take any sort of supplement without talking to your doctor first. Even though you can benefit from an increased supply of good bacteria, you don’t want to take the risk of eating something you might be allergic to. Your doctor will let you know what you can eat safely.
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