With diet and fitness lately, it seems, everything “bad” is suddenly good for you. First it was healthy fats. Now it’s…bacteria? So we should, like, not wash our hands before we eat? Umm…not exactly.
Apparently, not all bacteria is bad. Some bacteria is necessary in our gut to fight bad bacteria (like E. coli or whatever is hanging out on unwashed produce this week). But our “good bacteria” can often get out of whack, especially if we have chronic stress, a poor diet, or take antibiotics (which destroy all bacteria, good and bad). This leads to all sorts of stomach problems, like gas, bloating, and general plumbing disasters. So by adding foods with “probiotics,” we can restore our bodies’ natural bacteria and keep our digestive systems working nicely. Some research show they can also ease food allergies and lactose intolerance.
OK so by now I am sure you’re thinking, “OMG, I take antibiotics every time I sniffle. Where can I get some of these fun little buggers?” Well, here are some good sources:
- Yogurt. This is a tasty, easy way to get probiotics, especially because many of us consume yogurt regularly anyway. Look for the “live active culture” seal on yogurt; most cartons will also include fancy-sounding Latin names which describe the bacteria included. (Like L. acidophilus and things of that nature. As long as it isn’t Strep Throat, I’m down with whatever.) Check the labels; some yogurt does not contain any probiotics. And keep the yogurt as natural as possible; make sure you’re not downing the good bugs along with extra sugars, saturated fat, and calories.
- Miso. This Japanese seasoning is found in miso soup, which is a great appetizer when you’re having sushi. You can also buy miso powder to make your own broth at home, which some people drink like tea. I love having miso soup when I feel a little under-the-weather, so the idea of having the broth as a probiotic boost and sub for tea sounds great to me.
- Kefir. (No, not Keifer.) Kefir is a dairy product that is similar to yogurt, but offers its own nutritional benefits. It contains a lot more good bacteria than yogurt and supporters say it works more efficiently in your intestines than yogurt. It also may be easier to digest for people who are lactose intolerant (although in both cases, the good bacteria goes after some of that lactose, making both easier than milk). It can be found in the refrigerated section at health food stores, and is often sweetened to make it more palatable. You can also try it in a smoothie!
- Tempeh. Tempeh is a vegetarian source of protein that comes from soybeans. It can also be found in the fridge at a health food store (usually with the tofu) and can be used like meat (grilled, in pasta dishes, stir-fried, etc).
Probiotics can’t promise that you’ll lose 10 pounds or improve your skin (sadly), but for me, it’s easy enough to consume foods with them (since those listed above are healthy for a number of reasons as it is) when I get the chance. To achieve a healthy body, it’s important that all systems are running smoothly. And I’d prefer that E. coli stays the hell out of all my systems, thank you very much.