Updated: Aug 8, 2018
Growing research is finding that a healthy microbiome, the ecosystem made up of billions of bacteria living in our 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 depression, and it can help burn body fat to maintain a healthy weight. Having good gut health contributes to more energy and a good mood. Signs of poor gut health include symptoms such as being tired and bloated, having gas, diarrhoea and constipation.
To maintain your delicate ecosystem of beneficial microbes, most of which lives in your gut, you need to feed it properly. Anything with probiotics (good bacteria) can help replenish this vital source of health.
Here are the foods most likely to do the job:
Yogurt is the king of probiotics and the go-to source for beneficial bacteria. Regardsless of whether you like Greek or regular, low-fat or full-fat, what matters is 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 - and more than that and you will be feeding the bad gut bacteria with the sugar they love. A substitute for lactose intolerant people is Kefir. Kefir is a fermented milk drink that is 99% lactose-free and high in probiotics and protein (start with a small amount just to be sure).
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.
Speaking of 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 icon. Like most soy products, it can also help reduce cholesterol.
My favorite - fizzy, tangy, and with a slight vinegar-like kick, kombucha has become a very trendy health drink. The tea is naturally carbonated and refreshing when consumed cold. Kombucha can be bought at health food shops such as Reformhaus.
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 mix it into other food.
This chewy bread gets its notably sour tinge from lactic acid starter, which offers a strain of bacteria called lactobacillus, a very important probiotic. Sourdough is also a healthy choice for those with diabetes, as its rich fiber and whole grain content helps reduce blood sugar spikes.