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All About Probiotics

November 6 2012

Probiotics are live beneficial bacteria that complement the bacteria already present in your body. They can be taken in supplement form but optimally, they should be eaten in the form of cultured foods.

Different probiotics are more effective than others for different bodies, which is why it is important to incorporate a variety of probiotic-rich foods into the diet. Probiotics can be very helpful in alleviating digestive distress or boosting immunity.  Essentially, they serve as the “gate-keepers” in the digestive tract and help monitor what the body absorbs.

Below are some delicious options for foods that contain live probiotics.

Pickled vegetables:
Varieties: Sauerkraut, kim chi, beets, carrots, and cucumbers (pickles)
Where to find Pickled Vegetables: QFC, Fred Meyer, Safeway, Trader Joes, Whole Foods, PCC, farmer’s markets

– Raw cultured vegetables can be found in the refrigerated section of a grocer and host a variety of live bacteria. To ensure the product contains live bacteria, choose products that have not been pasteurized and are labeled as “raw”. It is also possible to make your own pickled vegetables.

Varieties: Yogurt, Kefir, Butter, sour cream
Where to find dairy: any grocer with a dairy selection. Best option is one that is low in added sugar and from a local dairy source with organic dairy

– Yogurt is the most widely available probiotic food but the other forms of dairy can contain valuable sources of probiotics as well. To ensure that your dairy contains live bacteria make sure it is labelled “cultured”. If you do not eat dairy, most natural grocers offer cultured vegan substitutes made from soy, rice or coconut milk.

Varieties: fruit juice flavored
Where to find kombucha: QFC, Safeway, PCC, Whole Foods

Kombucha is a fermented health drink made from tea, sugar and live cultures. As the tea ages, the sugar is consumed by the bacteria while vinegar, B vitamins and other nutrients are produced. When choosing a kombucha, make sure that the added sugar content is low and there are not many other ingredients besides the tea, sugar and probiotic strains.

Varieties: dairy, coconut water, water
Where to find Kefir: QFC, Fred Meyer, Trader Joes, PCC, Whole Foods

Kefir production originated as a means to preserve milk before refrigeration was available. Kefir is produced when Kefir grains and a liquid of choice (usually milk) are allowed to ferment. For those who are lactose intolerant, coconut water kefir proposes a great alternative to the traditional dairy kefir. All varieties can be found in the refrigerated section of a grocer or made with grains from a reliable source.

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