If you’ve been researching healthier lifestyles, you’ve probably run across the term “probiotics.” But what are they, and why are they important?

How can they help your family live better?

The Basics

Probiotics are “good” bacteria that live in your gut. They play an integral role in our overall wellness by influencing our digestion, mental health, immunity, skin and other facets of our health.

Your body makes probiotics on its own, but there are several reasons why you might want to increase your intake:

– You have an imbalance of “good” and “bad” bacteria. This could be due to illness, injury, poor diet, lactose intolerance or any number of medical issues.

– You’re struggling with something like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and your symptoms could be eased with better digestive habits.

– You’re taking antibiotics that are interfering with the natural balance of bacteria in your body.

Getting Enough Probiotics

There are many ways to increase the probiotics in your gut. You’re probably most familiar with supplements, but you can also eat certain foods that have been cultivated to contain them.

You might prefer a more natural method if you’re trying to help your entire family with their digestive health. While kid-friendly supplements exist, a lot of parents are simply more comfortable with the organic path. It’s also a lot more fun to prepare a meal together rather than popping probiotic tablets!

Here are just a few foods that are rich in probiotics:

1. Yogurt

You’re probably already familiar with yogurt because of how delicious it is but are you aware that it is one of the best dietary sources of probiotics?

It is made by the bacterial fermentation of milk and has many of the benefits of dairy while also helping to boost the friendly bacteria in your stomach.

Just be sure to avoid sugary yogurts with lots of additives.

2. Kefir

Kefir is a fermented milk drink that is similar to yogurt in function but has a more fluid consistency.

It’s also a bit on the sour side you may need to flavor it with some fruits.

3. Tempeh

If you’ve never heard of tempeh, you’re in for a treat. It’s a soybean product that originated in Indonesia but is currently enjoyed all around the world.

The fermentation process makes it bind together in a solid, cake-like form, and it’s popular with vegetarians, health food enthusiasts and anyone who wants more protein or probiotics in their diet. Consider experimenting a little with your next family dinner.

4. Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is a kind of shredded cabbage that’s been fermented with lactic acid bacteria. It’s known for its white appearance and sour flavor, and it’s frequently used as a topping on sausages and hot dogs to give them a bit of a kick.

In addition to its taste, sauerkraut is also a great source of probiotics, so it can improve your health and expand your horizons at the same time.

5. Pickles

In terms of probiotics, pickles are cucumbers which have been placed in a salt and water solution and left to ferment for some time. This fermentation process is what creates the healthy bacteria that are beneficial to our health.

The drawback to pickles is that they are high in sodium due to the amount of salt used in the fermentation.

Pickles created using vinegar do not have probiotics.