Although many people think of bacteria as harmful and unhealthy, certain types are good for your health. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), probiotics are microorganisms containing several types of “good” bacteria that support your digestive system. The NIH also found some evidence that probiotics might support a healthy weight, lower your cholesterol and boost your immune system.
Here’s how to reap these benefits.
1. Eat probiotic-rich foods.
Probiotics are naturally produced during fermentation. According to Harvard Health, fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut and kimchi will give you a probiotic boost. The caveat? Food companies don’t have to share the amount of probiotic cultures in any given food, so you won’t know how much you’re getting.
2. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about a probiotic supplement.
Probiotic supplements come in different forms, from capsules to powders to thick liquids. These supplements aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, so the Cleveland Clinic recommends talking to your doctor or pharmacist before choosing a supplement. If probiotics are a good choice, they can recommend a high-quality brand. If probiotics aren’t right for you because of a medical condition, they can let you know.
3. Eat plenty of fiber.
According to a 2019 article in the journal Foods, many fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains contain prebiotic fibers, which are non-digestible carbohydrates that feed probiotics in your gut. Prebiotic-rich foods help you get the most out of the probiotics in your diet. These foods are also packed with good-for-you vitamins and minerals.