Five Gut-Healing Foods to Add to Your Diet
We have all heard the expression, "You are what you eat," but we could also take this one step further and say, "You are what you feed the bacteria that live in your gut." The lining of your gut is mostly covered with bacteria, otherwise known as tiny organisms that create a micro-ecosystem called a microbiome. In fact, the healthier your microbiome is, the healthier you are. Balance in the microbiome depends on two things: stimulating the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut by giving them the foods they like (prebiotic) and adding living microbes directly to your system with foods rich in probiotics. Here are five gut healing and probiotic-rich foods that you can start to include in your diet.
Yogurt is one of the most well-known food sources for gut health—and for good reason. Yogurt is formed when bacterial cultures are added to milk, resulting in a fermented or cultured milk product. Not all yogurts contain probiotics, however, as they can be destroyed during the pasteurization process; look for "live and active cultures" on the ingredient label. Look for the strains Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Streptococcus—they have been widely researched and linked to better health outcomes, including improved immune system function and better digestive health.
Kimch is a spicy, fermented Korean side dish made of cabbage, other vegetables, and ingredients like ginger, garlic, salt, and red pepper flakes. Kimchi can contain many different strains of probiotics, with lactic acid bacteria being the dominant strain. Research has shown that kimchi can boost cognitive and immune health and aid in weight loss, among other benefits. Enjoy kimchi alongside typical Korean dishes like spicy tofu soup or bibimbap, a rice dish with plenty of vegetables, meat, and a fried egg; you could also add it to your own soups or stir-fries.
When you hear "miso," do you think first of miso soup? If you do, you're not alone, but it's far more than just a type of broth. Miso, a Japanese seasoning, is actually a paste made from fermented soybeans, salt, and koji (a type of fungus). The main strain in miso is called Aspergillus oryzae and has been shown to reduce gastrointestinal symptoms. Miso soup is the go-to option for including miso in your diet, but you can also use it to flavor other broths, marinades, sauces, or spreads.
Your favorite burger topping also has probiotics! Just make sure to choose pickles whose brine is made from a salt and water solution that naturally ferments and forms probiotics, as opposed to vinegar, which does not contain probiotics. Look for "live and active cultures" on the label.
Kefir is made by adding kefir grains—cultures of lactic acid bacteria and yeast—to milk. While yogurt might be the better known probiotic-rich dairy food, kefir actually contains many more strains of probiotics and has been linked to improved digestive health.