Probiotics are live bacteria, yeasts and fungi that are found in fermented foods. Eating bacteria may not sound like a good thing to do, but believe it or not, the good bacteria that live in our intestines (and other places like our skin and lungs) are critical partners in our good health.
In fact, we all have more foreign cells in our body - in the form of helpful bacteria, yeasts and fungi - than we do our own body's cells. Yes! There are trillions of bacteria, yeasts, fungi and other micro-organisms living on our skin, in our lungs and in every part of our digestive system from mouth to stomach to intestines. These tiny organisms make up what is called our microbiome.
Keeping our microbiome healthy and balanced is critical to keeping our immune system healthy, preventing and managing chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease, and even maintaining a healthy body weight. Eating some of these micro-organisms (or probiotics) on a regular basis can really be helpful because stress, anti-biotics, too much alcohol, lack of sleep, etc can sometimes change the microbiome so that there are too many "bad" bacteria hanging around and not enough "good" ones!
How do you keep your microbiome healthy?
Feed it well by eating plenty of fruits, veggies and whole grains. The fiber in these foods provide your gut bacteria with the nourishment they need to thrive.
Replenish the micro-organisms regularly by eating foods containing pro-biotics. Pro-biotics are the good bacteria and yeasts and are found in yogurt, kefir, kimchi, kombucha, tempeh, miso, fresh sauerkraut, some soft fermented cheeses like gouda, and even in red wine.
Get plenty of rest, manage your stress level, keep alcohol in moderation, and after any anti-biotic treatment replenish good bacteria with probiotics.
Five ways to try some pro-biotic foods:
· Plain or vanilla yogurt mixed with berries and pecan pieces.
· Blend up a cup of kefir (find it near the yogurt in grocery stores) with a half a banana and a half cup of strawberries for a yummy smoothie.
· Have a snack of Triscuit crackers topped with pieces of kimchi (a spicy Korean fermented cabbage found in the produce department at Hannaford Supermarkets and most other grocery stores)
· Drink a glass of kombucha along with lunch. (find bottles of kombucha - a fermented tea drink - in most grocery stores. Just ask!)
· Try a new recipe containing miso or tempeh. Search www.EatingWell.com for these two delicious recipes: Harissa Miso Delicata Squash Tacos or Sesame Honey Tempeh Quinoa Bowl.
Remember, these are tips to begin exploring when you are ready. Not there yet? No problem! Keep enjoying your food. Taste life!