Call it eating for two — trillion. Every mouthful of food you swallow doesn’t just feed you, it also feeds the colony of microbes living inside your body. These little guys make up your gut microbiome, and they have a surprisingly big effect on your health, potentially affecting everything from how much you weigh to your cholesterol levels to your risk of heart disease.
One way to cultivate a healthy microbiome — one in which the good bugs outnumber the bad — is to eat more healthy bacteria, also known as probiotics. While you may already associate probiotics with yogurt, the creamy snack is just one of many foods that pack a probiotic punch.
The common denominator among probiotic-rich foods is a chemical process known as fermentation. During the process — which can take days, weeks or even months — live bacteria are used to break down components of the food, which makes them easier to digest (after all, the bacteria have already done some of the work for you) and makes the nutrients easier to absorb. In fact, fermented foods are poised to be the top superfood of 2018, according to a survey of more than 2,000 dietitians. A few to try:
Sauerkraut: It’s not just for hot dogs! Check the label to make sure you’re getting the authentic stuff (look for words like “live/active cultures,” “unpasteurized” or “naturally fermented”).
Kimchi: The national condiment of Korea is similar to sauerkraut, but with a spicy kick. Considered one of the world’s healthiest foods, it’s also chock full of vitamins and antioxidants.
Tempeh: Made from fermented soybeans, it has a nutty flavor and a more firm texture than tofu. Also made from soybeans: miso, a fermented paste that adds an umami flavor to soups and other dishes.
Kefir: This fermented milk drink (think of it as drinkable yogurt) is also a good source of calcium.
Everyone needs a girlfriend!
Sign up to receive our free weekly newsletter every Thursday.