On the face of it, eating live bacteria sounds pretty nasty. Yet, in the past few years, nutritionists have found that probiotics can have a wide variety of health benefits, including improving immune system response (so you don't get sick as much), aiding digestion and alleviating asthma and allergy symptoms. Sure, you could buy probiotic supplements, but as with most beneficial food-based components, nature has got you covered without an expensive trip to GNC to pick up pills or capsules. And, your body typically has an easier time breaking down whole food sources than those created in a lab. Look for the five items below next time you're out grocery shopping. --Phil White
Active Culture Yogurt
Greek yogurt brands like Chobani have become must-have items in athletes' refrigerators because they're low in fat, taste great and pack a protein punch (13 grams in a little container). A lot of people don't realize that yogurt listing "active and live cultures" somewhere on the tub is also one of the best sources of healthful probiotics.
Cheese often gets a bad rap for being high in saturated fat. Guilty, if you overeat it. But aged cheeses such as cheddar, parmigiano and parmesan shouldn't be ignored as they give you fast-acting protein (whey) and slow-acting protein (casein), and a solid dose of colon-helping probiotics. Some soft cheeses, such as gouda, are also a solid bet.
This Oktoberfest staple is not the first food you'd think of when pondering healthy options, but the German cooked cabbage is rich in three key probiotics. Just like with raw butter, get the unpasteurized version.
When dairies pasteurize butter, they're trying to eradicate harmful bacteria. But pasteurization kills thousands of probiotic bacteria and also oleic and other fatty acids that your body needs to perform at a high level. Go for raw butter instead and your body will thank you.
This Asian delight is certainly a wee bit high on the sodium count, but you can balance that out by eating kiwis, broccoli and other potassium-rich foods. Sip Miso next time you're out for Japanese or Thai food and benefit from the high probiotic content. And after a paddle out in the cold, it seems to taste even better.
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