When you hear the word “bacteria,” do you cringe and grab the nearest bottle of hand sanitizer? You’ll be happy to know that not all bacteria are bad. In fact, the good bugs – also known as probiotics – could carry the secret to weight-loss success.
The communities of microorganisms living inside your body are called your microbiome; these include trillions of bacteria, both good and bad, that live inside your digestive tract, mostly residing in your large intestine. Many new studies link the health of a person’s microbiome to their weight, showing that obesity is highly associated with an unhealthy microbiome that results from eating the Standard American Diet (SAD). Such a diet is low in fiber and high in sugar, refined carbs and bad fats. It’s also the ideal fuel for the bad bugs in your gut, stimulating inflammation and weight gain. To combat this, you can improve the diversity and quantity of good bacteria in your gut so they outnumber and overpower the bad guys.
Just how do you create a healthier microbiome? First, ditch the SAD to stop feeding the bad bacteria. Second, increase your intake of foods that are rich in both probiotics and prebiotics, which help feed your good bacteria.
Fermented foods, such as yogurt, kefir, miso, sauerkraut and kimchi are great sources of probiotics. Not only are they good for you, but they also pack a punch of bold, tangy flavor, a welcome addition to many recipes.
Prebiotics, the preferred food for probiotics, are found in foods high in nondigestible fiber, such as asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, jicama, onions and garlic. These foods pass through the upper part of your gastrointestinal tract and remain undigested; once they reach the colon, they are fermented by the good bacteria already living there.
By eating more fermented foods and plenty of produce each day, you’ll nourish your microbiome, which will help decrease inflammation, improve digestion and brain function, and enhance your immune system. As a bonus, you’ll also probably notice a little more wiggle room in your favorite jeans in a few weeks.
Get started today! Try these probiotic-rich recipes: