While coconut oil, chia and kale are always heavy hitters in the good health department, the biggest new trend is actually microscopic. We're talking probiotics. These “friendly” microbes that populate your digestive tract offer a ton of health benefits -- and they're gaining more and more buzz as essential for optimal health.
Probiotics are great for keeping your digestive tract healthy, from preventing food-borne illness to lowering your risk of certain digestive conditions, like IBS. But they might even help reduce inflammation and lower the risk of obesity.
Best of all, you don’t need to invest in expensive probiotic supplements to get these friendly microbes (unless you want to!). You can easily get healthy probiotics from wholesome, unprocessed foods -- including a few that might already be part of your diet!
Dine on Probiotic Yogurt and Kefir
When you think probiotics, you likely picture yogurt -- and for good reason. Probiotic yogurt offers ample amounts of L. Acidophilus, a probiotic shown to boost immune health and prevent mild digestive upset.
If you’re looking for a change from regular yogurt, try kefir. Like yogurt, kefir has a tangy taste (thanks to its probiotic content!). It supplies L. Acidophilus, just like yogurt, and also contains B. Bifidum, a probiotic that boosts digestive health, lowers inflammation and helps control allergies. Most kefir is thin and drinkable, so you can sip it on the go or blend it into smoothies. (Check out our recipe below!)
Try Fermented Kimchi and Sauerkraut
Fermented foods are all the range, thanks to their healthy probiotic content. The cabbage used to make both kimchi and sauerkraut naturally contains a healthy mix of probiotics that multiply as it ferments, so you end up with a probiotic powerhouse to boost your digestive health. And you’ll get other nutritional benefits, like vitamin C and fiber, to boost digestion and heart health. Virtually any kimchi offers probiotic benefits, but you’ll get the most benefits if you opt for a raw variety or make your own at home.
You’ll get similar benefits if you pick up raw sauerkraut -- as long as you avoid the shelf-stable varieties that are most common at grocery stores. Most grocery store sauerkraut is pasteurized, which keeps it fresh longer, but also destroys the healthy probiotics. Instead, look for raw sauerkraut in the health food section (it should be stored in the fridge).
Shop for Probiotic Tempeh and Miso
Give your #MeatlessMondays a probiotic makeover by adding more fermented soy to your diet. If you typically pick up tofu, opt for tempeh -- it offers the same high-quality protein, fiber and minerals, but also supplies a range of helpful probiotics. You’ll also get the probiotic benefits of soy by adding miso -- a fermented soybean paste -- to your diet. In addition to offering a range of healthy microbes, miso has a potent savory “umami” flavor so it can take your cooking to the next level.
Mix Your “Pros” With “Pre's”
You’ll get the most health benefits from your probiotics if you eat them along with prebiotics. Unlike probiotic foods, which actually contain the beneficial microbes, prebiotics offer nutrients that boost probiotic growth -- they’re the food that keeps friendly microbes healthy.
Here’s the good news -- you probably already eat lots of prebiotic foods! You’ll find ‘em in cashews and pistachios; chickpeas, beans and lentils; veggies like onions, leeks, asparagus, beetroot and snow peas; grains like wheat bread, oats and pasta; and fruits including apples, watermelon and grapefruit.
Prebiotic and Probiotic “Apple Pie” Smoothie
Add all the ingredients to your blender; blend on low speed until just combined, and then on high speed until smooth.