Turns out, you actually are what you eat! Scientists have discovered that probiotic-packed foods like yogurt do lots more than just keep your digestion on track. These beneficial bacteria play a major part in all kinds of other health issues, and can even help to reverse aging. To get your gut—and health—back on track, here’s what you can do.
Rev your immune system with pickles.
A whopping 60 to 80 percent of our body’s immune system is located in the gut. No wonder a recent study found that increasing beneficial gut microbes also dramatically cuts the rate of age-related ills. “When our gut microbes are in balance, our immune system is stronger,” confirms Montefiore Health System bariatric dietitian Melissa Rifkin M.S., R.D. One powerful way to boost your immunity: Eat fermented foods like pickles, sauerkraut and kimchi. They’re loaded with natural probiotics that can increase the healthy bacteria in your gut with just three 2-oz. servings a week.
Fight diabetes with yogurt.
Researchers have discovered that eating yogurt provides a boatload of protection against Type 2 diabetes. Turns out, as soon as yogurt reaches your gut, it’s probiotics begin regulating your glucose levels. And plain regular yogurt with live active cultures packs nearly three times the probiotic punch of Greek yogurt.
Beat the blues with probiotics.
“Your brain is connected to your gut through the vagus nerve, which sends and receives signals, including negative emotions like stress and anxiety,” says Rebecca Scritchfield R.D.N., author of Body Kindness. That may explain why, in a groundbreaking study, folks who took a daily probiotic capsule felt calmer and more relaxed within a month. To benefit, pick a probiotic with at least seven strains of “good bacteria and five billion CFU count, such as Align Probiotic Supplement.
Wondering if your gut bacteria are out of balance? Ask your doctor about organic acid testing which can identify any bacterial deficiencies you may have.
Sharpen your memory with agave.
Too much table sugar can affect your memory as much as your waistline, reveals Oregon State University research. “Processed sugar is toxic to beneficial gut microbes,” says Scritchfield–including the specific microbes linked to memory. A healthy alternative: all-natural agave syrup, which the Journal of Nutritional Science reports helps increase good gut bacteria.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.