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Unless you live in another universe, you have most likely heard of the health benefits of probiotics, and are aware of their rising popularity.  Probiotics are microorganisms that provide a number of benefits to your health. They have been proven to enhance your digestive system by supporting the intestinal flora you already have, as well as boosting brain health, promoting heart health, giving you better-looking skin, and reducing depression. Some of you may prefer to take probiotic supplements, which are readily available, but there are numerous sources of probiotics you can add to your daily diet plan.

  1. Yogurt: The most popular source of probiotics is yogurt but you need to be careful of the yogurt you choose. Not all are the same because many are filled with sugar and syrup, which is not good for your health. You want to pick yogurts that contain live cultures for maximum probiotic benefits. Yogurt is beneficial because it is fermented by friendly bacteria and has been shown to improve bone health, as well as regulate blood pressure.  Beware of yogurts that claim to be healthy and ‘low-fat’ because these often contain a lot of sugar, which is the ideal food source for pathogenic bacterial strains. Yogurt is only beneficial as long as the flora balance within your gut stays in favor of the beneficial strains; too many bad ones can cause serious illness.
  2. Sauerkraut: Maybe not as popular but definitely as effective when it comes to probiotic benefits is sauerkraut. Pickled cabbage is packed full of probiotics and can be easily added to a hot dog or served as a side dish for any meal. It just so happens that sauerkraut is also an anti-aging meal, so will help you wipe away any existing wrinkles and prevent new ones from forming.  Always make sure you buy unpasteurized sauerkraut because the pasteurization process kills live and active bacteria.
  3. Kefir: Kefir is a fermented probiotic milk drink and the grains used are not cereal grains, but rather cultures of lactic acid bacteria and yeast. It is often described as a cross between milk and yogurt and is a quick, easy way to add probiotics and essential vitamins to your body. Kefir can be used plain or mixed with fruit to make a smoothie or even poured over granola for a healthy breakfast treat. Even though yogurt is the preferred choice for probiotics in the Western world, kefir is actually a better source, helping with bone health, digestion, and providing protection against infections.
  4. Miso: Popular in Japanese culture, miso soup is a tofu and vegetable broth, low in calories and high in protein, as well as probiotics. Miso soup is available at most grocery stores to make at home as a tasty break from normally canned soups.  Miso is also a great source of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients including manganese, copper, and vitamin K.  Studies have recently found that miso soup consumption has been linked to a reduction in risk for breast cancer.
  5. Soy Milk: Soy is a probiotic food that naturally contains benefits, but the soy milk products you can now get in the stores contain added live cultures. This is the perfect solution for those who are lactose intolerant because it provides many of the same nutrients as dairy and a few extra. Make sure you always choose the products that are labeled as containing live and active cultures to get the most probiotic benefits.
  6. Tempeh: This is a fermented soybean product. You have already read about the probiotic benefits of soy. This food, in particular, is a firm patty that can be baked, grilled or sautéed and is often used to substitute meat for meals. Tempeh is full of probiotics and vitamin B12, a great choice for vegetarians who need to keep up their protein intake.
  7. Microalgae: Sometimes referred to as “blue algae”, microalgae is a grassy, green plant that is most often used in juices. It can be purchased from most health food stores, easy to add to juice drinks or smoothies to make a healthy and beneficial treat.
  8. Kimchi: You already heard how pickled cabbage (sauerkraut) is an excellent source of probiotics and kimchi is basically the same thing. Popular in Korean dishes, kimchi is fermented, pickled cabbage that has been mixed with spices, ginger, garlic, and red chili pepper flakes. This side dish is filled with vitamins, calcium, and probiotics, as well as riboflavin and iron, so becomes a nutritious addition to any meal.  Specifically, it is the lactic acid bacteria in kimchi that help to improve and enhance your digestive health.
  9. Pickles: Pickles are basically cucumbers that have been pickled in a saltwater solution. Available as sweet or dill varieties, pickles deliver a good amount of probiotics to your system. They make a great snack because they are low in calories and add the perfect crunch to any sandwich. It is important to remember when buying pickles, do not get the ones in vinegar solution because they do not contain live probiotics.  Pickles do tend to be high in sodium, so if you suffer from high blood pressure, then you may want to limit the snacking or find an alternate probiotic source.
  10. Olives: If you purchase olives in brine, you are assured a source of many probiotics. The brine allows probiotic strains to thrive so grab a handful of olives as a snack or throw some in a salad or on your next pizza.
  11. Dark Chocolate: For when you absolutely need to satiate your sweet tooth, reach for some dark chocolate. Full of antioxidants and probiotics, dark chocolate can benefit your digestive tract as well as help your body to get rid of free radicals.  Make sure you choose the bars with higher cocoa content, ideally around 70 percent.

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