Written by Lisa Dreher, MS, RDN, LDN
5 Ways to Get Probiotics

5 Ways to Get Probiotics

Scientists continue to uncover the far-reaching benefits of the microbes in our gut. As a result, people are turning to probiotics as a way to support the health of their gut, immune system, and much more. In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health, probiotics are the third most commonly used supplement among adults as well as children, and for good reason. Yet there is still so much more we have yet to understand about the gut microbiome and probiotics, and there are endless probiotic options available. Even for the most knowledgeable professional, it can be difficult to decide what would be the best probiotic supplement to use. This is one reason why it is a good idea to get probiotics the tried and true way: through your diet!

Before probiotic supplements were developed, people got their probiotics from the food they ate. And we can still do the same thing today. Fancy that! It is probably best to expose your gut microbiome to a variety of beneficial bacteria that are found in the many foods you can incorporate into your daily diet.

Here are my top 5:

  1. Miso is a traditional staple of the Japanese diet. It is made by fermenting soybeans, barley, or brown rice. You have probably seen or tasted miso soup, but miso paste can be used in a variety of ways. Try using it as a spread, a dressing, a marinade/glaze, in place of butter or, of course, to make a soup. If you are gluten- or soy-free, be sure you know the source of the miso!
  2. Yogurt may possibly the most commonly eaten probiotic-rich food in America. Unfortunately, many yogurts that you get at the grocery store today contain loads of sugar, artificial ingredients and are made with low quality cow’s milk. If you are sensitive to dairy, there are increasingly more dairy-free options that are made with live cultures. If you do eat dairy, look for unsweetened, grass-fed and organic options, then add some berries and cinnamon for flavor. Even better, try sheep or goat’s milk yogurt, which is often easier to digest.
  3. Kefir is similar to yogurt but is unique in that you drink it and it’s fermented with kefir grains. Also, because it is fermented with yeast and more bacteria, it can contain over 30 different strains of probiotics making it one of the richest sources of naturally occurring probiotic-rich foods available. Two major microbes found in kefir are lactobacilli and bifidus, both very beneficial to the gut and our immune system. Look for organic, grass-fed varieties. You can also try making your own with a non-dairy alternative such as coconut milk.
  4. Sauerkraut may not be rich in diversity of probiotics, this fermented cabbage (and sometimes other vegetables) will provide some healthy bacteria as well as enzymes that may help support digestion. It also provides vitamins C, K, folate, iron, and manganese.
  5. Brine-cured olives have naturally occurring beneficial bacteria, thanks to the brine that creates an environment where they can thrive. They are also a great source of healthy fat and phytonutrients, so have them as a snack, topping for a salad, in bruschetta, or tapenade.

One of the easiest ways you can use food as medicine is by incorporating probiotic foods into your daily diet. Supporting the good bacteria in your gut is key in supporting your entire body—from your ability to absorb nutrients, to the health of your skin, to the strength of your immune system, beneficial bacteria have a major impact. Do your health a favor and eat one of these probiotic-rich foods every day for optimal wellness.

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