The 5 BEST Probiotic Foods to Eat\u00a0for\u00a0Better Digestive\u00a0Health Probiotics are teeny-tiny bacteria\u00a0that live inside of your belly. And while it may sound disgusting, these little buggers are absolutely vital in maintaining\u00a0good\u00a0digestive and overall\u00a0health.\u00a0So, consuming\u00a0probiotic foods\u00a0is pretty important if you want to take care of yourself.\u00a0You\u00a0see, researchers recently found out that there are about 100 trillion+ of these bacteria\u00a0that live\u00a0in your gut alone, and that doesn\u2019t include the additional ecosystems of microscopic\u00a0probiotics\u00a0that call the inside of your mouth\u00a0and your skin their home. \u00a0 With so many of these microscopic bugs living on\u00a0and inside your body,\u00a0you may feel like you're some sort of creeping, crawling science experiment. And to be honest,\u00a0you\u00a0kind\u00a0of\u00a0are! Today, scientists are discovering more\u00a0and more\u00a0the importance of\u00a0this\u00a0microscopic bacteria\u00a0and the "ecosystems" they set up inside of\u00a0our\u00a0bodies. They are calling it the \u201cmicrobiome,\u201d and studies have revealed that it is able to influence the following\u00a0aspects of your overall health\u00a0(as well as others): \tIntestinal inflammation \tUnwanted weight gain \tIrregularity \tImmunity \tCardiovascular function \tMetabolism \tGood mood \tEnergy levels \tSleep quality\u00a0 \tSkin dryness \tAcne breakouts \tAnd an increased risk for obesity, and type 2 diabetes ,3\u00a0 What Are Probiotics? You\u00a0likely\u00a0already know about probiotics,\u00a0because they can be found in a range of whole,\u00a0natural foods\u00a0like\u00a0yogurt. For this reason, you may have seen the labels\u00a0on foods that\u00a0contain \u201clive active cultures.\u201d And when you see that\u00a0you know that a food provides living active bacteria known as probiotics.\u00a0But what exactly does that mean? Essentially, when probiotic foods claim to contain live active cultures they are providing living,\u00a0microscopic bacteria that include some of the most helpful strains found in your microbiome. They include (but are not limited to)\u00a0lactobacillus\u00a0acidophilus,\u00a0bifidobacterium\u00a0bifidum, streptococcus thermophilus,\u00a0and\u00a0bacillus\u00a0coagulans,\u00a0which are all considered to be \u201cgood\u201d bacteria\u00a0or probiotics. However, inside the vast environment of your microbiome there are also many \u201cbad\u201d strains of microscopic bacteria\u00a0living\u00a0inside your gut,\u00a0including\u00a0streptococcus pyogenes,\u00a0neisseria\u00a0gonorrhoeae, mycobacterium tuberculosis,\u00a0and\u00a0escherichia\u00a0coli. Technically, all of these\u00a0different strains of live\u00a0microbiota\u00a0are needed for\u00a0overall\u00a0health. However, when the \u201cbad\u201d strains of bacteria eat enough foods that make them grow, they can develop into large colonies\u00a0and take over the balance of your microbiome. Foods to Avoid for Good Health Scientists now know that the most effective way to regain balance in the microbiome is to stop feeding the \u201cbad\u201d bugs what they love to eat, halting their growth. \u00a0Unfortunately, those foods include the most popular items Americans eat on a daily basis,\u00a0including these commonly consumed foods of the Standard American Diet, or SAD. Top foods to avoid for a balanced microbiome:\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0 \tGMOs (genetically modified organisms) \tSugary beverages \tDiet sodas \tHigh-fat foods \tProcessed, refined carbohydrates (pasta, bread) \tCrackers, cookies, and other packaged foods \tFast-food \tPrescription medications The 5 BEST Probiotic Foods to Eat for Better Health If you follow the Standard American Diet like most of the people living in the U.S., you may have\u00a0an\u00a0overgrowth of \u201cbad\u201d bacterial strains inside your gut microbiome. For this reason, eating these\u00a0probiotic foods could help you regain microbial balance in your\u00a0gastrointestinal\u00a0(GI)\u00a0tract\u00a0and\u00a0boost your overall health. Here are\u00a0the top 5 probiotic foods to start eating - right now! 1. Blue Green Algae If you are not eating your sea vegetables, you are missing out! Not only does seaweed provide a\u00a0wide\u00a0range of nutrients needed for good health including Vitamin A, D, E, K, and B, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc, along with essential fatty acids Omega-3, and 6, but many\u00a0types of seaweed also offer live probiotics to support your gut health. Researchers have found that consuming\u00a0certain\u00a0types of seaweed,\u00a0including blue green algae like\u00a0spirulina\u00a0and chlorella,\u00a0is\u00a0an effective way to get more probiotics into your everyday diet. \u00a0Additionally, studies have revealed the power of blue green algae to feed the \u201cgood\u201d bacteria\u00a0what they need to grow - nutrients called prebiotics. In feeding the \u201cgood\u201d bacteria\u00a0prebiotic foods, you may be able to grow larger colonies of probiotics in your gut for good health. Seaweed is also rich in naturally occurring antioxidant compounds that support a strong immune system. \u00a0 2. Fermented Vegetables If you like the taste of pickles\u00a0or sauerkraut, you might also like the flavor of kimchi. Derived from an ancient Korean recipe for fermented vegetables, kimchi is traditionally made with cabbage\u00a0but also includes other strong vegetables like carrots, radishes, and onions.\u00a0 Known to offer large amounts of a specific type of\u00a0good bacteria\u00a0known as probiotic lactic acid bacteria (LAB), kimchi has been shown in clinical studies to offer\u00a0many\u00a0health benefits as one of the most versatile\u00a0and delicious probiotic foods. These\u00a0benefits\u00a0include regularity, weight loss, cholesterol balance, antioxidant protection, brain health, immunity, and even clearer skin. 3. Kombucha Tea As an ideal replacement for sugary beverages\u00a0and sodas, kombucha is a fun, effervescent drink\u00a0that\u00a0your taste buds will love! Designed to contain a range of different \u201cgood\u201d bacteria\u00a0including probiotic bacteria, yeasts, and even beneficial fungi, kombucha has a slightly tart flavor, but usually comes in tasty blends like pineapple,\u00a0coconut, or even blueberry mint. Studies confirm that kombucha tea helps to inhibit the growth of strains of \u201cbad\u201d bacteria\u00a0like\u00a0pathogenic species of\u00a0escherichia\u00a0coli, staphylococcus epidermis, and staphylococcus epidermis, along with antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains as well. \u00a0 Because kombucha fermented tea is usually made from antioxidant-rich green\u00a0or black tea, it is also one of the best beverages to drink for immunity. 2\u00a0So, swap your sugary soda pop for a tall glass of refreshing kombucha! 4. Thick & Creamy Yogurt Slash your cravings for rich, creamy foods with thick European style yogurt! It's versatile texture\u00a0and ultra-plain flavor makes it ideal for using as a base for smoothies, dips,\u00a0sauces,\u00a0and spreads.\u00a0Plus,\u00a0it's loaded with\u00a0probiotics\u00a0and is\u00a0one of the easiest probiotic foods to integrate into your everyday menu. \u00a0 In one study, eating yogurt\u00a0and other probiotic foods was associated with a positive influence on the gut microbiome. Participants reported significant improvements in their brain function after consuming probiotic foods. 4 5. Dark Chocolate Probably one of the most satisfying probiotic foods to eat is dark chocolate. 5\u00a0And if you love to get a pick-me-up from sweets, this is the probiotic food for you! Scientists have found that dark chocolate contains a unique strain of probiotic bacteria\u00a0plus pre-biotic fibers that help grow the strain (Baccilus) inside your gut. \u00a0 Not only that, but the main ingredient in chocolate (cocoa) is one of the most potent sources of a rare type of antioxidants\u00a0known as polyphenols,\u00a0shown in clinical trials to effectively inhibit the growth of pathogenic bacteria in the gut. 7\u00a0 Just remember that not all chocolate is created equal, and the active probiotics inside chocolate that make it a health food\u00a0are\u00a0only found in the cocoa. So, if you eat chocolate as a probiotic food, only consume types that contain 70% or more cocoa. Eating these 5 best probiotic foods is a great way to boost the number of \u201cgood\u201d gut bacteria\u00a0living inside your microbiome.\u00a0However, they are not the only way to\u00a0get more probiotics into your diet. You may also choose to add a comprehensive probiotic supplement to your daily health regimen. No matter which way you decide to increase the number of helpful little buggers inside your body, remember to always check with your doctor before adding new foods\u00a0or dietary supplements,\u00a0as they can point out any potential interactions with your current medications\u00a0or diet.\u00a0 References: \tLuke KUrsell, Jessica L Metcalf. Defining the Human Microbiome.Nutr\u00a0Rev. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2013 Feb 1. \tRasnikK. Singh, Hsin-Wen Chang. Influence of diet on the gut microbiome and implications for human health. Journal of Translational Medicine. Journal of Translational Medicine201715:73. \tJose C. Clemente, LukeK.Ursell. The Impact of the Gut Microbiota on Human Health: An Integrative View. Cell Volume 148, Issue 6, 16 March 2012, Pages 1258-1270. \tInfluence of the Microbiome on the Metabolism of Diet and Dietary Components. The Human Microbiome, Diet, and Health: Workshop Summary. Institute of Medicine (US) Food Forum. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2013. \tStandard American Diet. NutritionFacts.org. \tvSeaweed, spirulina, dried. Nutrition Facts and Calories.SELFNutritionData. \tPrebiotic Efficiency of Blue Green Algae on Probiotics Microorganisms. April 2017. \tLaurie O\u2019Sullivan, Brian Murphy. Prebiotics from Marine Macroalgae for Human and Animal Health Applications. Mar Drugs. 2010; 8(7): 2038\u20132064. \tRaposo MF, de Morais AM. Microalgae for the prevention of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Life Sci. 2015 Mar15;125:32-41. \tPark KY,JeongJK. Health benefits of kimchi (Korean fermented vegetables) as a probiotic food. J Med Food. 2014 Jan;17(1):6-20. \tRasuJayabalan, Radomir V. Malbasa. A Review on Kombucha Tea\u2014Microbiology, Composition, Fermentation, Beneficial Effects, Toxicity, and Tea Fungus. Volume 13, Issue 4, July 2014, Pages 538\u2013550. \t2008a - RasuJayabalan, Radomir V. Malbasa. A Review on Kombucha Tea\u2014Microbiology, Composition, Fermentation, Beneficial Effects, Toxicity, and Tea Fungus. Volume 13, Issue 4, July 2014, Pages 538\u2013550. \tLisko DJ, Johnston GP. Effects of Dietary Yogurt on the Healthy Human Gastrointestinal (GI) Microbiome. Microorganisms. 2017 Feb 15;5(1). \tLeo Galland. The Gut Microbiome and the Brain. J Med Food. 2014 Dec 1; 17(12): 1261\u20131272. \tNabil Hayek. Chocolate, gut microbiota, and human health. FrontPharmacol. 2013; 4: 11. \tDevelopment of a novelsynbioticdark chocolate enriched with Bacillus\u00a0indicus\u00a0HU36, maltodextrin and lemon fiber: Optimization by response surface methodology. January 2013. \tTzounisX., Rodriguez-Mateos A. Prebiotic evaluation of cocoa-derived flavanols in healthy humans by using a randomized, controlled, double-blind, crossover intervention study. Am. J.\u00a0Clin.\u00a0Nutr. 93, 62\u201372.