Your gut is like the plot of your favourite massy, action-packed film. It’s all about the battle between the ‘good’ guys and the ‘bad’ ones. What you eat directly improves the good bacteria’s winning chances by providing them with reinforcements. The good guys in your gut are the ones that fight their opposites to keep your immunity and metabolic rate in top form, and also help the body absorb vital vitamins and minerals. Research and countless studies suggest that our microbes play a significant role in regulating our weight, physical and mental health. Plus, probiotic foods, when combined with exercise, can get you closer to those six-packs! Here are seven foods that will amp up your good bacteria army.
1. GREEK YOGHURT: Your favourite post-workout treat is not only good for building muscles, but also for improving your gut health. Just make sure that you buy one which has ‘live cultures’ written on the label. Avoid those flavoured ones with added sugars, as they will only help the bad microbes!
2. APPLES: An apple a day may not keep the doctor away, but it will definitely keep the bad microbes in check! Apples contain pectin, a prebiotic fibre—which your body can’t digest, but the good bacteria in your gut can feed on it, thereby breaking it down and keeping them and you healthy.
3. PICKLED VEGGIES: Not the oily versions with enough spice to burn your insides! Make sure to opt for one with veggies that have been ‘actually’ fermented and not just pickled to save yourself from being in a pickle (pun intended). The ones you buy off the racks are usually pasteurised—which kills all kinds of bacteria. So, look out for the word ‘fermented’ or ‘unpasteurised’ on the label.
4. KOMBUCHA: Is the talk of the health town. Kombucha is a black tea that has been fermented with a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, known as a SCOBY. This slightly fizzy and sour tea, not only contains a hearty helping of probiotics but also B-vitamins, which help boost your immunity and lower the risk of heart disease. Red flag: This bubbly drink is mostly loaded with sugar. So, always opt for a low-sugar Kombucha that has been refrigerated, to reap its probiotic benefits.
5. DOSA/IDLI/DHOKLA: Surprised to find these on this list? Don’t be. We Indians have had this natural fermentation process figured out way before the rest of the world caught up. These naturally-fermented foods contain a good amount of probiotics so your gut bugs can be fruitful and multiply.
6. OATS: It’s not just good for horses. This fibre-rich grain is great for humans too, as oats are full of soluble fibre, which keep you fuller for longer. The beta-glucan in oats helps lower cholesterol—and in the gut, its prebiotic qualities promote the growth and activity of your intestinal bacteria.
7. KEFIR: It is made by adding kefir grains to milk, which causes fermentation. This thick and tangy yoghurt-like beverage contains a wide variety of probiotic bacteria and 11g of protein per cup. Kefir is said to work wonders as a probiotic food because the bacteria is believed to colonise where it yields optimal gut health; in the intestinal tract. Have a cup of kefir as an on-the-go breakfast, or add to your cereal instead of milk.
While these foods can help boost the good bugs in your gut, make sure to exercise or practise yoga/meditation and get a good night’s rest to maintain a healthy lifestyle. An erratic schedule and high-stress levels can affect your gut health and the microbes fighting the good fight.
Disclaimer: Always consult with a nutritionist or doctor before introducing new foods into your diet if you have any pre-existing health issues.
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