What’s the Deal with Probiotics?

If you read many health food books, magazines, or online blogs, you’ve probably heard the term “probiotics” thrown around, particularly touting how good they are for you. Many products in the grocery store now boast probiotics on their packaging. But what are probiotics exactly, and how do they improve our health?

Probiotics are essentially good bacteria that live in your stomach. These little critters make up your “gut microbiome,” or the collection of bacteria and cells in your gut that help you digest food and enjoy the nutrients your food provides. There are more than 5,000 species of bacteria that make up the probiotics in your stomach, or your microbiome. Interestingly enough, each individual’s microbiome is a bit different, so the amount of probiotics you need to ingest will differ from your closest friend.

Research has found that consuming probiotics can help promote a healthy gut. As with any nutritional regimen, it’s all about figuring out what makes you feel your best – whether that is you at your most active, energetic, or happiest. The amount and type of probiotics you take in is dependent on what makes you feel good, so it’s critical to incorporate a variety of probiotic sources into your diet. But what options are out there?

Firstly, you can try probiotic supplements or vitamins. These supplements specifically are not yet regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, so doctors recommend doing your research and sticking with brands that have been around a while (and that have been tested thoroughly). It’s also smart to choose a brand that incorporates different strains of probiotics rather than just one.

If you aren’t into the supplement game, there are plenty of food-based sources of probiotics. Fermented foods are one key source of the good bacteria; this includes sauerkraut, kimchi, and tempeh. If you already douse Greek yogurt with berries and granola in the morning, you’re on your way to probiotic heaven. Greek yogurt is filled with probiotics to keep your gut healthy. Change it up with different toppings to keep the meal fresh and incorporate it easily into your daily life.

If funky drinks are more your style, add kombucha or apple cider vinegar to your cart during your next grocery store trip. These drinks are filled with probiotics and hydrate you at the same time. However, they do have lower amounts of probiotics than the other sources we’ve mentioned, so if you go this route, be sure to supplement it with vitamins, yogurt, or fermented foods.

With many sources to choose from, it’s easy to incorporate probiotics into your diet. Your stomach – and your happier, healthier self – will thank you!

Do you make sure to eat probiotics each day? What are your favorite sources? Let us know in the comments below!

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