Probiotic research is still growing, but there are a few known health benefits provided by certain gut bacteria—the good bacteria—known as probiotics. Among the benefits are vitamin synthesis in the gut, immune system strength, better digestion, and mood balance.
So then what are prebiotics? They're basically plant fibers that help promote the growth of good bacteria, or probiotics. Prebiotic fibers are found in a number of vegetables and fruits, such as asparagus, garlic, leeks, and bananas.
Probiotics are essentially live microorganisms found in most fermented foods. There are many different strains of probiotics that have different benefits. Here's a list of foods to look for that contain a healthy dose.
Look for salt-water brined olives rather than vinegar-brined for live probiotics.
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Milk is fermented in the presence of kefir “grains” made of yeast and bacteria. Kefir has a somewhat sour taste and contains mostly Lactobacillus bacteria.
Hyvee Dietitian Expert TipTry using flavored kefir instead of milk in smoothies for a boost of probiotics.
A spicy Korean dish that includes fermented cabbage, radishes and other interchangeable vegetables, seasoned with chili powder, red pepper and garlic. Most of the bacterial strains in kimchi are lactic acid bacteria, which ward off bad bacteria in the digestive system.
A popular fermented food, yogurt is made by fermenting cheese milk with Lactobacillus and Streptococcus bacteria.
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Kombucha is a carbonated tea fermented with yeast and bacteria. It has an array of claimed health benefits, including improved digestion.
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Hyvee Dietitian Expert TipKombucha has a powerful tangy taste that might be overwhelming at first. To tame the sourness, dilute with club soda and add fresh fruit or herbs.
This fermented soybean dish popular in Japan contains Bacillus subtilis which may help your immune system, aid digestion of vitamin K2 and support heart health.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Made by fermenting apples. Add it to a drink or salad dressing.
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Pickled, or fermented, baby cucumbers. Must be pickled in a salt-water mixture rather than vinegar to have live probiotics.
A popular soup ingredient, miso is created by fermenting soybeans, barley or brown rice with koji, a fungus.
Look for active probiotics listed on the food labels of some aged cheeses, such as Gouda, mozzarella, Cheddar and cottage cheese. Raw, unpasteurized cheeses include probiotics such as thermophilus, bifudus, bulgaricus and acidophilus.
Sauerkraut is cabbage that's fermented in lactic acid bacteria, which support the growth of good bacteria. Choose refrigerated (not canned) and unpasteurized for the live and active bacteria benefits.