As we make nutritional resolutions for the New Year, it’s worth considering the concept of functional foods-such as probiotics- and how they can benefit us. The idea behind functional foods is that they may create a positive effect on your health beyond simple nutrition. Those who support eating functional foods suggest that they encourage our peak wellness and help decrease the risk of disease.

Whether you are a vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, omnivore, or on some sort of restrictive diet, we all strive for better health through better digestion. Probiotics and fermented foods that deliver those same bacteria are popular ways to achieve this goal.

As explained by Dr Josh Axe, certified doctor of natural medicine and clinical nutritionist: “Probiotics are good bacteria that primarily line your gut and are responsible for nutrient absorption and supporting your immune system.”

By now we’ve all heard about the unavoidable science behind the gut-health connection and how the health of our digestive system is key to both our physical and mental health.

So, in the spirit of new beginnings, here are 10 foods to help you achieve digestive wellness through probiotics in the New Year:

  1. Nut milks

Almond and cashew milk offer substantial protein and some natural probiotics. New varieties are also being developed with active cultures. If you haven’t tried the sweeter taste of cashew milk, now’s the time.

  1. Natto

Fermented soybeans form this popular Japanese dish, typically served with rice. Rich in protein, natto is specially fermented by adding Bacillus natto to soybeans. The process increases the nutritional value of the soybeans and creates the unique, sticky texture and taste.

  1. Olives

Olives, rosemary and olive oilPickled in briny water, olives can provide you a large number of probiotics. As appetizers or special ingredients to pasta dishes, pizzas or anything you desire, this food offers both impeccable taste and benefit to your body.

  1. Kefir

This ancient offering is made from dairy and fermented kefir grains. While similar to yogurt, it has a tart and slightly acidic taste from the yeasty fermentation process that boosts the probiotic content.

  1. Tempeh

Another variety of fermented soybeans, tempeh is firmer than tofu and boasts the benefits of the probiotics generated during the fermentation process. Because it holds together, it’s often made into a veggie patty and may be combined with other grains and spices. Unlike tofu, however, tempeh also has a mild flavor all its own.

  1. Yogurt

Depending on its quality, yogurt – including Greek yogurt – can be not only the most popular probiotic food but also most full of probiotic nutrients. Grass-fed sheep or goat’s milk provide higher quality yogurts and are also organic.

  1. Sauerkraut and Kimchi

These cultured vegetables are fermented to produce enzymes that aid in digestion. Look for the unpasteurized versions, if you aren’t making your own, to avoid killing off the good bugs.

  1. Miso

The Japanese version to chicken soup is Miso soup. Miso soup is traditionally used to aid digestion. Miso, the reddish-brown fermented paste-like substance, is also used in numerous other recipes including sauces, dressings and marinades.

  1. Sour Pickles

If you already eat sour pickles, you’re in luck because you already receive their great digestive benefits. To maximize those probiotic gains, choose pickles fermented in sea salt and water rather than vinegar. Crunch and enjoy!

  1. Apple Cider Vinegar

A functional food for many ailments such as high blood pressure and cholesterol, apple cider vinegar also provides helpful probiotics. You can drink a small amount per day or sprinkle it on salad with oil as a dressing.

Of course, probiotic supplements are also available. But as with most things, it’s preferable to obtain your nutrients through your food sources. If you do look to supplements, pay attention to directions regarding refrigeration or expiration dates to ensure cultures stay alive.

Meanwhile, enjoy these tasty functional foods and the healthy benefits they bring you all year long!

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