Do you remember Go-gurt?
This is stuff (read: crap) my Mom fed me as a child, because she heard “yogurt was healthy.”
While this may be an extreme example, the quality of 90% of the yogurt at the grocery store isn’t much better than the nutritional value of Go-Gurt.
Most yogurt comes from conventionally-fed cow’s milk, which is pasteurized, which means “zero bacteria.”
It doesn’t make sense to eat or drink pasteurized products, especially yogurt, if your goal is to improve the health of your digestive system.
Pasteurization’s goal is to kill all bacteria. And it does a good job at that.
It also makes food, for lack of a better word “dead.”
Dead foods don’t help you THRIVE.
If you want a thriving digestive system, stop eating store-bought yogurt and start eating the foods listed below.
In the Flat Belly System, living foods include those foods that increase your good gut bacteria. The living foods that you will eat daily include the following:
- Fermented foods
- Nonstarchy vegetables
- Low-glycemic fruits
Living foods either contain beneficial bacteria or they act as food for the beneficial bacteria already thriving in your gut. When you eat living foods on a regular basis, you will replenish the good bacteria in your gut, and you will increase your fiber intake, which helps control your appetite and improves your bowel health.
Fermentation allows the beneficial lactobacilli present on the surface of all living things – yes, even your own skin – to proliferate creating lactic acid which not only pickles and preserves the vegetables, but also promotes the health of those that consume it in the following ways:
- Enhances the vitamin content of the food.
- Preserves and sometimes enhances the enzyme content of the food.
- Improves nutrient bio-availability in the body.
- Improves the digestibility of the food and even cooked foods that are consumed along with it!
Now let’s go over 9 foods that are better than store-bought yogurt for balancing your gut bacteria and improving your gut health:
1.) Live-Cultured Pickles
A strong immune system depends on a healthy digestive tract. If digestive health is not up to par, chances are neither is the immune system. Healthy bacteria are key! That’s where fermented or culture pickles come in. They contain probiotics — friendly bacteria that colonize our digestive track, keeping our bacterial flora balanced.
Similar to those found in yogurt, probiotic cultures produced during lactic acid fermentation of vegetables are known to have many health benefits, such as
- Improved intestinal tract health
- Enhanced immune system function
- Improved availability of nutrients
- Decreased allergies
- Inflammation relief
- Protection against microbial infection
- Maintenance of gut flora that may help to control weight gain and appetite
Plus, who doesn’t LOVE a good pickle?
Sauerkraut contains high levels of glucosinolates. These compounds have been shown to have anti-cancer activity in laboratory research. Aside from it’s probiotic power, as I’ll show below, sauerkraut is also loaded with Vitamin C.
To name just a few of the good bacteria that are common to lactic acid preserved food, there is Lactobacillus acidophilus, L. bulgaricus, L. plantarum, L. caret, L. pentoaceticus, L brevis and L. thermophiles.
There is a wide range of healthy bacteria responsible for maintaining a healthy gut, so you won’t find the same good bacteria count in every batch, but what you will find is a product brimming with healthy probiotics that will help ensure good gut health.
I like adding a side of sauerkraut to organic hot dogs.
3.) Cultured Vegetables
Fermented foods are potent detoxifiers and contain much higher levels of probiotics than probiotic supplements, making them ideal for optimizing your gut flora. In addition to helping break down and eliminate heavy metals and other toxins from your body, beneficial gut bacteria perform a number of surprising functions, including:
- Mineral absorption, and producing nutrients such as B vitamins and vitamin K2
- Preventing obesity and diabetes
- Lowering your risk for cancer
- Balancing your hormones
- Improving skin health
Buying cultured and fermented vegetebles can get expensive, so Google how to do this yourself to save at the supermarket, PLUS home fermentation produces a better quality product.
Kimchi is a low-calorie, high fiber and nutrient –packed side dish. It is a storehouse of a range of vitaminssuch as vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B2 and vitamin C.
It is also rich in essential amino acids and minerals such as iron, calcium, selenium. It has an impressive assortment of powerful antioxidants and provides an additional benefit of probiotics as well in the form of lactobacillus bacteria. It contains numerous healthful components including capsaicin, chlorophyll, carotenoids, flavonoids and isothiocyanates with low amount of fat and sugar.
5.) Raw-Milk Cheese
It’s all about the milk. Great cheese starts with great milk – raw milk from grass fed cows.
Now on to the health benefits of raw milk. It’s a complete food, containing proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, cholesterol, and beneficial bacteria (probiotics). This is one powerful and perfect food! Raw milk keeps the good bacteria that are necessary to break down all the nutrients in milk and other foods we eat, which is vital to overall good health.
Since it’s harder to find high-quality grass-fed RAW milk, I didn’t include it in this list of probiotic foods, BUT you can get many of the benefits of raw milk by eating raw milk cheese.
I like to make gluten-free pizza with raw cheese, sprinkle some on my eggs, and use it for any and all of my family’s cheese needs.
Kombucha is a variety of fermented, lightly sweetened black or green tea drinks that are commonly intended as functional beverages for their supposed health benefits. Kombucha is produced by fermenting tea using a “symbiotic ‘colony’ of bacteria and yeast” (SCOBY).
Because it’s naturally fermented with a living colony of bacteria and yeast, Kombucha is a probiotic beverage. This has a myriad of benefits such as improved digestion, fighting candida (harmful yeast) overgrowth, mental clarity, and mood stability. As such, it’s noted for reducing or eliminating the symptoms of fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety, etc.
You can find kombucha at your local farmer’s markets or grocery store. Make sure to buy the Kombucha with A LOT of “floaties” in it, that means it has the most beneficial bacteria.
While probiotic foods are essential for gut health and overall well-being, prebiotics help “feed” probiotics. By pairing them them together, you can achieve an even better result.
As prebiotics make their way through the stomach without being broken down by either gastric acids or digestive enzymes, they bring about positive changes in the digestive tract and organs. Essentially, prebiotic compounds become nutrient sources, or “fuel,” for the beneficial bacteria that live within your gut.
Raw garlic is another easy prebiotic ingredient to use that offers loads of benefits. The benefits of garlic include: cancer prevention, along with antifungal, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties. Try using some in a sautes, dips, sauces, dressings, and slow cooker recipes.
Onions, both cooked or raw, give plenty of flavor to your food and also provide immune-enhancing antioxidants. They contain a natural source of inulin, one type of good bacteria that fights indigestion. Use onions in savory dishes like sauces, salads, dips and soups, or grilled on the BBQ.
Leeks are similar in nature to garlic and onions. Given their substantial polyphenol content, including their notable amounts of kaempferol, we would expect to see overlap with garlic and onions in terms of support for many health problems related to oxidative stress and chronic low-level inflammation. (1) Since leeks have the same benefits as onions and they are more mild, you can add leeks to salads, sautees, and stir-frys without altering the flavor.
A Healthy Digestive System Starts With Your Fork
Remember to include a variety of produce such as leafy greens broccoli, berries, celery, and a variety of gluten-free whole grains, nuts, beans, legumes, and seeds in your diet as much as possible.
These all contain fibers that will also feed the gut and assist in digestion. Choose the options that work best for you and expand to newer options as your body allows.
If you don’t know the best approach to improving your digestive health and start your healthy eating journey, I invite you to watch my short presentation about my breakthrough program The Flat Belly System.
Don’t worry I go more in depth than showing you which foods are best for a healthy digestive system.
Go watch it now while you’re thinking about it and come back and let me know what you learned.