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11 Probiotic Foods You Should Be Eating

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Probiotics are live microorganisms that have health benefits when consumed (1).

These are usually beneficial bacteria that serve some function in the body.

Probiotics have all sorts of powerful benefits for your body and brain.

Yogurt is a highly nutritious dairy product made from fermented milk.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

They may improve digestive health, reduce depression and promote heart health (2, 3, 4).

Some evidence even suggests that they may give you better looking skin (5).

Getting probiotics from supplements is popular, but you can also get them from foods that are prepared by bacterial fermentation (fermented foods).

Here is a list of 11 super healthy fermented foods that contain live probiotics.

1. Yogurt

Yogurt is a highly nutritious dairy product made from fermented milk.

The milk is fermented with friendly bacteria, mainly lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacteria (6).

Eating yogurt has been associated with many health benefits, including improved bone health. It is also beneficial for people with high blood pressure (7, 8).

In children, yogurt may help reduce the diarrhea caused by antibiotics. It can even help relieve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (9, 10, 11).

Additionally, yogurt may be better than milk for people with lactose intolerance. This is because the bacteria turn some of the lactose into lactic acid, which is also why yogurt tastes sour.

However, keep in mind that not all yogurt contains live probiotics. In some cases, the live bacteria have been killed during processing.

For this reason, make sure to choose yogurt with active or live cultures.

Also, make sure to always read the label on yogurt before you buy it. Even if it is labeled low-fat or fat-free, it may still be loaded with high amounts of added sugar.

Bottom Line: Probiotic yogurt is linked to a number of health benefits. It may also be more suitable than milk for people with lactose intolerance. Make sure to choose yogurt that has active or live cultures.

2. Kefir

Kefir is a fermented milk drink. It is made by adding kefir grains to cow or goat milk.

Kefir grains are not cereal grains, but rather cultures of lactic acid bacteria and yeast that look a bit like cauliflower.

The word kefir allegedly comes from the Turkish word keyif, which means “feeling good" after eating (12).

In fact, kefir has been linked to various health benefits.

It may improve bone health, help with some digestive problems and protect against infections (2, 13, 14).

While yogurt is probably the best known probiotic food in the Western diet, kefir is actually a better source. Kefir contains several major strains of friendly bacteria and yeast, making it a diverse and potent probiotic (15).

Like yogurt, kefir is generally well-tolerated by people who are lactose intolerant (16).

Bottom Line: Kefir is a fermented milk drink. It is a better source of probiotics than yogurt and people with lactose intolerance can often eat kefir with no problems.

3. Sauerkraut

In addition to its probiotic qualities, sauerkraut is rich in fiber, as well as vitamins C, B and K.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Sauerkraut is finely shredded cabbage that has been fermented by lactic acid bacteria.

It is one of the oldest traditional foods and is popular in many countries, especially in Europe.

Sauerkraut is often used on top of sausages or as a side dish. It has a sour, salty taste and can be stored for months in an airtight container.

In addition to its probiotic qualities, sauerkraut is rich in fiber, as well as vitamins C, B and K. It is also high in sodium and contains iron and manganese (17).

Sauerkraut also contains the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which are important for eye health (17, 18).

However, make sure to choose unpasteurized sauerkraut. Pasteurization kills the live and active bacteria.

Bottom Line: Sauerkraut is finely cut, fermented cabbage. It is rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Make sure to choose unpasteurized brands that contain live bacteria.

4. Tempeh

Tempeh is a fermented soybean product. It forms a firm patty and people have described the flavor as nutty, earthy or similar to a mushroom.

Tempeh is originally from Indonesia, but has become popular all over the world as a high-protein meat substitute.

The fermentation process actually has some surprising effects on its nutritional profile.

Soybeans are typically high in phytic acid, a plant compound that impairs the absorption of minerals like iron and zinc.

However, the fermentation process lowers the amount of phytic acid, which may increase the amount of minerals the body is able to absorb from tempeh (19, 20).

Another interesting byproduct of this process is that the bacteria produce some vitamin B12, a nutrient that soybeans do not contain (21, 22, 23).

Vitamin B12 is mainly found in animal foods, such as meat, fish, dairy products and eggs (24).

This makes tempeh an overall great choice for vegetarians, as well as anyone looking to add a nutritious probiotic to their diet.

Bottom Line: Tempeh is a fermented soybean product. It is a popular, high-protein substitute for meat. It also contains a decent amount of vitamin B12, a nutrient found mainly in animal products.

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5. Kimchi

Kimchi made from cabbage is high in some vitamins and minerals, including vitamin K, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and iron.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Kimchi is a fermented, spicy Korean side dish.

Cabbage is usually the main ingredient, but it can also be made from other vegetables.

A mix of seasonings is used for flavor, such as red chili pepper flakes, garlic, ginger, scallion and salt.

Kimchi contains the lactic acid bacteria Lactobacillus kimchii, as well as other lactic acid bacteria that may benefit digestive health (25, 26).

Kimchi made from cabbage is high in some vitamins and minerals, including vitamin K, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and iron (17).

Bottom Line: Kimchi is a spicy Korean side dish, usually made from fermented cabbage. It contains lactic acid bacteria, which may benefit digestive health.

6. Miso

Miso is a Japanese seasoning.

It is traditionally made by fermenting soybeans with salt and a type of fungus called koji.

Miso can also be made by mixing soybeans with other ingredients, like barley, rice and rye.

This paste is most often used in miso soup, a popular breakfast food in Japan. Miso is typically salty and you can buy it in many varieties, such as white, yellow, red and brown.

Miso is a good source of protein and fiber. It is also high in various vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, including vitamin K, manganese and copper (17).

Miso has also been linked to some health benefits.

One study reported that frequent miso soup consumption was associated with a lower risk of breast cancer in middle-aged Japanese women (27).

Another study found that women who ate a lot of miso soup had a reduced risk of stroke (28).

Bottom Line: Miso is a fermented soybean paste and a popular Japanese seasoning. It is rich in several important nutrients and may reduce the risk of cancer and stroke, especially in women.

7. Kombucha

Kombucha is a fermented black or green tea drink.

This popular tea is fermented by a friendly colony of bacteria and yeast. It is consumed in many parts of the world, especially Asia.

On the internet, there are many claims about the potential health effects of kombucha tea.

However, high-quality evidence on kombucha is lacking.

The studies that exist are animal and test tube studies and the results may not apply to humans (29).

Yet, because kombucha is fermented with bacteria and yeast, it does probably have health benefits related to its probiotic properties.

Bottom Line: Kombucha is a fermented tea drink. It is claimed to have a wide range of health benefits, but human evidence for these claims is currently lacking.

8. Pickles

Pickled cucumbers are a great source of healthy probiotic bacteria, which may improve digestive health.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Pickles (also known as gherkins) are cucumbers that have been pickled in a solution of salt and water.

They are left to ferment for some time, using their own naturally present lactic acid bacteria. This process is what makes them sour.

Pickled cucumbers are a great source of healthy probiotic bacteria, which may improve digestive health.

They are low in calories and a good source of vitamin K, an essential nutrient for blood clotting. Pickles also tend to be high in sodium (17).

It is important to note that pickles made with vinegar do not contain live probiotics.

Bottom Line: Pickles are cucumbers that have been pickled in salty water and fermented. They are low in calories and high in vitamin K. However, pickles made using vinegar do not have probiotic effects.

9. Traditional Buttermilk

Buttermilk is low in fat and calories, but contains several important vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin B12, riboflavin, calcium and phosphorus.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

The term buttermilk actually refers to a range of fermented dairy drinks.

However, there are two main types of buttermilk: traditional and cultured.

Traditional buttermilk is simply the leftover liquid from making butter. Only this version contains probiotics and it is sometimes called grandma's probiotic.

Traditional buttermilk is mainly consumed in India, Nepal and Pakistan.

Cultured buttermilk, commonly found in American supermarkets, generally does not have any probiotic benefits.

Buttermilk is low in fat and calories, but contains several important vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin B12, riboflavin, calcium and phosphorus (17).

Bottom Line: Traditional buttermilk is a fermented dairy drink mainly consumed in India, Nepal and Pakistan. Cultured buttermilk, found in American supermarkets, does not have any probiotic benefits.

10. Natto

Natto is another fermented soybean product, like tempeh and miso.

It contains a bacterial strain called Bacillus subtilis.

Natto is a staple in Japanese kitchens. It is typically mixed with rice and served with breakfast.

It has a distinctive smell, slimy texture and strong flavor. Natto is rich in protein and vitamin K2, which is important for bone health and cardiovascular health (17, 30, 31).

A study in older Japanese men found that consuming natto on a regular basis was associated with higher bone mineral density. This is attributed to the high vitamin K2 content of natto (32).

Other studies suggest that natto may help prevent osteoporosis in women (33, 34).

Bottom Line: Natto is a fermented soy product that is a staple in Japanese kitchens. It contains a high amount of vitamin K2, which may help prevent osteoporosis and heart attacks.

11. Some Types of Cheese

The good bacteria survive the aging process in some cheeses, including Gouda, mozzarella, cheddar and cottage cheese.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Although most types of cheese are fermented, that does not mean that all of them contain probiotics.

Therefore, it is important to look for live and active cultures on the food labels.

The good bacteria survive the aging process in some cheeses, including Gouda, mozzarella, cheddar and cottage cheese (35, 36).

Cheese is highly nutritious and is a very good source of protein. It is also rich in important vitamins and minerals, including calcium, vitamin B12, phosphorus and selenium (37).

Moderate consumption of dairy products, such as cheese, may even lower the risk of heart disease and osteoporosis (38, 39).

Bottom Line: Only some types of cheese contain probiotics, including cheddar, mozzarella and gouda. Cheese is very nutritious and may benefit heart and bone health.

Probiotic Foods Are Incredibly Healthy

There are many super healthy probiotic foods you can eat.

This includes numerous varieties of fermented soybeans, dairy and vegetables. Eleven of those are mentioned here, but there are many more out there.

If you can't or won't eat any of these foods, then you can also take a probiotic supplement. There are many types available on Amazon.

Probiotics, from both foods and supplements, can have powerful effects on health.

For more info on probiotics, check out this article: The Ultimate Guide to Probiotics.

This article was reposted from our media associate Authority Nutrition.

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Brazilians living in The Netherlands organized a demonstration in solidarity with rainforest protectors and against the president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro on Sept. 1 in The Hague, Netherlands. Romy Arroyo Fernandez / NurPhoto / Getty Images

By Tara Smith

Fires in the Brazilian Amazon have jumped 84 percent during President Jair Bolsonaro's first year in office and in July 2019 alone, an area of rainforest the size of Manhattan was lost every day. The Amazon fires may seem beyond human control, but they're not beyond human culpability.

Bolsonaro ran for president promising to "integrate the Amazon into the Brazilian economy". Once elected, he slashed the Brazilian environmental protection agency budget by 95 percent and relaxed safeguards for mining projects on indigenous lands. Farmers cited their support for Bolsonaro's approach as they set fires to clear rainforest for cattle grazing.

Bolsonaro's vandalism will be most painful for the indigenous people who call the Amazon home. But destruction of the world's largest rainforest may accelerate climate change and so cause further suffering worldwide. For that reason, Brazil's former environment minister, Marina Silva, called the Amazon fires a crime against humanity.

From a legal perspective, this might be a helpful way of prosecuting environmental destruction. Crimes against humanity are international crimes, like genocide and war crimes, which are considered to harm both the immediate victims and humanity as a whole. As such, all of humankind has an interest in their punishment and deterrence.

Historical Precedent

Crimes against humanity were first classified as an international crime during the Nuremberg trials that followed World War II. Two German Generals, Alfred Jodl and Lothar Rendulic, were charged with war crimes for implementing scorched earth policies in Finland and Norway. No one was charged with crimes against humanity for causing the unprecedented environmental damage that scarred the post-war landscapes though.

Our understanding of the Earth's ecology has matured since then, yet so has our capacity to pollute and destroy. It's now clear that the consequences of environmental destruction don't stop at national borders. All humanity is placed in jeopardy when burning rainforests flood the atmosphere with CO₂ and exacerbate climate change.

Holding someone like Bolsonaro to account for this by charging him with crimes against humanity would be a world first. If successful, it could set a precedent which might stimulate more aggressive legal action against environmental crimes. But do the Amazon fires fit the criteria?

Prosecuting crimes against humanity requires proof of widespread and systematic attacks against a civilian population. If a specific part of the global population is persecuted, this is an affront to the global conscience. In the same way, domestic crimes are an affront to the population of the state in which they occur.

When prosecuting prominent Nazis in Nuremberg, the US chief prosecutor, Robert Jackson, argued that crimes against humanity are committed by individuals, not abstract entities. Only by holding individuals accountable for their actions can widespread atrocities be deterred in future.

The International Criminal Court's Chief Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, has promised to apply the approach first developed in Nuremberg to prosecute individuals for international crimes that result in significant environmental damage. Her recommendations don't create new environmental crimes, such as "ecocide", which would punish severe environmental damage as a crime in itself. They do signal, however, a growing appreciation of the role that environmental damage plays in causing harm and suffering to people.

The International Criminal Court was asked in 2014 to open an investigation into allegations of land-grabbing by the Cambodian government. In Cambodia, large corporations and investment firms were being given prime agricultural land by the government, displacing up to 770,000 Cambodians from 4m hectares of land. Prosecuting these actions as crimes against humanity would be a positive first step towards holding individuals like Bolsonaro accountable.

But given the global consequences of the Amazon fires, could environmental destruction of this nature be legally considered a crime against all humanity? Defining it as such would be unprecedented. The same charge could apply to many politicians and business people. It's been argued that oil and gas executives who've funded disinformation about climate change for decades should be chief among them.

Charging individuals for environmental crimes against humanity could be an effective deterrent. But whether the law will develop in time to prosecute people like Bolsonaro is, as yet, uncertain. Until the International Criminal Court prosecutes individuals for crimes against humanity based on their environmental damage, holding individuals criminally accountable for climate change remains unlikely.

This story originally appeared in The Conversation. It is republished here as part of EcoWatch's partnership with Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than 250 news outlets to strengthen coverage of the climate story.

Author, social activist and filmmaker Naomi Klein speaking on the one year anniversary of Hurricane Maria on Sept. 20, 2018. Erik McGregor / Pacific Press / LightRocket / Getty Images

By Natalie Hanman

Why are you publishing this book now?

I still feel that the way that we talk about climate change is too compartmentalised, too siloed from the other crises we face. A really strong theme running through the book is the links between it and the crisis of rising white supremacy, the various forms of nationalism and the fact that so many people are being forced from their homelands, and the war that is waged on our attention spans. These are intersecting and interconnecting crises and so the solutions have to be as well.

The book collects essays from the last decade, have you changed your mind about anything?

When I look back, I don't think I placed enough emphasis on the challenge climate change poses to the left. It's more obvious the way the climate crisis challenges a rightwing dominant worldview, and the cult of serious centrism that never wants to do anything big, that's always looking to split the difference. But this is also a challenge to a left worldview that is essentially only interested in redistributing the spoils of extractivism [the process of extracting natural resources from the earth] and not reckoning with the limits of endless consumption.

What's stopping the left doing this?

In a North American context, it's the greatest taboo of all to actually admit that there are going to be limits. You see that in the way Fox News has gone after the Green New Deal – they are coming after your hamburgers! It cuts to the heart of the American dream – every generation gets more than the last, there is always a new frontier to expand to, the whole idea of settler colonial nations like ours. When somebody comes along and says, actually, there are limits, we've got some tough decisions, we need to figure out how to manage what's left, we've got to share equitably – it is a psychic attack. And so the response [on the left] has been to avoid, and say no, no, we're not coming to take away your stuff, there are going to be all kinds of benefits. And there aregoing to be benefits: we'll have more livable cities, we'll have less polluted air, we'll spend less time stuck in traffic, we can design happier, richer lives in so many ways. But we are going to have to contract on the endless, disposable consumption side.

Do you feel encouraged by talk of the Green New Deal?

I feel a tremendous excitement and a sense of relief, that we are finally talking about solutions on the scale of the crisis we face. That we're not talking about a little carbon tax or a cap and trade scheme as a silver bullet. We're talking about transforming our economy. This system is failing the majority of people anyway, which is why we're in this period of such profound political destabilisation – that is giving us the Trumps and the Brexits, and all of these strongman leaders – so why don't we figure out how to change everything from bottom to top, and do it in a way that addresses all of these other crises at the same time? There is every chance we will miss the mark, but every fraction of a degree warming that we are able to hold off is a victory and every policy that we are able to win that makes our societies more humane, the more we will weather the inevitable shocks and storms to come without slipping into barbarism. Because what really terrifies me is what we are seeing at our borders in Europe and North America and Australia – I don't think it's coincidental that the settler colonial states and the countries that are the engines of that colonialism are at the forefront of this. We are seeing the beginnings of the era of climate barbarism. We saw it in Christchurch, we saw it in El Paso, where you have this marrying of white supremacist violence with vicious anti-immigrant racism.

That is one of the most chilling sections of your book: I think that's a link a lot of people haven't made.

This pattern has been clear for a while. White supremacy emerged not just because people felt like thinking up ideas that were going to get a lot of people killed but because it was useful to protect barbaric but highly profitable actions. The age of scientific racism begins alongside the transatlantic slave trade, it is a rationale for that brutality. If we are going to respond to climate change by fortressing our borders, then of course the theories that would justify that, that create these hierarchies of humanity, will come surging back. There have been signs of that for years, but it is getting harder to deny because you have killers who are screaming it from the rooftops.

One criticism you hear about the environment movement is that it is dominated by white people. How do you address that?

When you have a movement that is overwhelmingly representative of the most privileged sector of society then the approach is going to be much more fearful of change, because people who have a lot to lose tend to be more fearful of change, whereas people who have a lot to gain will tend to fight harder for it. That's the big benefit of having an approach to climate change that links it to those so called bread and butter issues: how are we going to get better paid jobs, affordable housing, a way for people to take care of their families?

I have had many conversations with environmentalists over the years where they seem really to believe that by linking fighting climate change with fighting poverty, or fighting for racial justice, it's going to make the fight harder. We have to get out of this "my crisis is bigger than your crisis: first we save the planet and then we fight poverty and racism, and violence against women". That doesn't work. That alienates the people who would fight hardest for change.

This debate has shifted a huge amount in the U.S. because of the leadership of the climate justice movement and because it is congresswomen of colour who are championing the Green New Deal. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaibcome from communities that have gotten such a raw deal under the years of neoliberalism and longer, and are determined to represent, truly represent, the interests of those communities. They're not afraid of deep change because their communities desperately need it.

In the book, you write: "The hard truth is that the answer to the question 'What can I, as an individual, do to stop climate change?' is: nothing." Do you still believe that?

In terms of the carbon, the individual decisions that we make are not going to add up to anything like the kind of scale of change that we need. And I do believe that the fact that for so many people it's so much more comfortable to talk about our own personal consumption, than to talk about systemic change, is a product of neoliberalism, that we have been trained to see ourselves as consumers first. To me that's the benefit of bringing up these historical analogies, like the New Deal or the Marshall Plan – it brings our minds back to a time when we were able to think of change on that scale. Because we've been trained to think very small. It is incredibly significant that Greta Thunberg has turned her life into a living emergency.

Yes, she set sail for the UN climate summit in New York on a zero carbon yacht ...

Exactly. But this isn't about what Greta is doing as an individual. It's about what Greta is broadcasting in the choices that she makes as an activist, and I absolutely respect that. I think it's magnificent. She is using the power that she has to broadcast that this is an emergency, and trying to inspire politicians to treat it as an emergency. I don't think anybody is exempt from scrutinising their own decisions and behaviours but I think it is possible to overemphasise the individual choices. I have made a choice – and this has been true since I wrote No Logo, and I started getting these "what should I buy, where should I shop, what are the ethical clothes?" questions. My answer continues to be that I am not a lifestyle adviser, I am not anyone's shopping guru, and I make these decisions in my own life but I'm under no illusion that these decisions are going to make the difference.

Some people are choosing to go on birth strikes. What do you think about that?

I'm happy these discussions are coming into the public domain as opposed to being furtive issues we're afraid to talk about. It's been very isolating for people. It certainly was for me. One of the reasons I waited as long as I did to try and get pregnant, and I would say this to my partner all the time – what, you want to have a Mad Max water warrior fighting with their friends for food and water? It wasn't until I was part of the climate justice movement and I could see a path forward that I could even imagine having a kid. But I would never tell anybody how to answer this most intimate of questions. As a feminist who knows the brutal history of forced sterilisation and the ways in which women's bodies become battle zones when policymakers decide that they are going to try and control population, I think that the idea that there are regulatory solutions when it comes to whether or not to have kids is catastrophically ahistorical. We need to be struggling with our climate grief together and our climate fears together, through whatever decision we decide to make, but the discussion we need to have is how do we build a world so that those kids can have thriving, zero-carbon lives?

Over the summer, you encouraged people to read Richard Powers's novel, The Overstory. Why?

It's been incredibly important to me and I'm happy that so many people have written to me since. What Powers is writing about trees: that trees live in communities and are in communication, and plan and react together, and we've been completely wrong in the way we conceptualise them. It's the same conversation we're having about whether we are going to solve this as individuals or whether we are going to save the collective organism. It's also rare, in good fiction, to valorise activism, to treat it with real respect, failures and all, to acknowledge the heroism of the people who put their bodies on the line. I thought Powers did that in a really extraordinary way.

What are you views on what Extinction Rebellion has achieved?

One thing they have done so well is break us out of this classic campaign model we have been in for a long time, where you tell someone something scary, you ask them to click on something to do something about it, you skip out the whole phase where we need to grieve together and feel together and process what it is that we just saw. Because what I hear a lot from people is, ok, maybe those people back in the 1930s or 40s could organise neighbourhood by neighbourhood or workplace by workplace but we can't. We believe we've been so downgraded as a species that we are incapable of that. The only thing that is going to change that belief is getting face to face, in community, having experiences, off our screens, with one another on the streets and in nature, and winning some things and feeling that power.

You talk about stamina in the book. How do you keep going? Do you feel hopeful?

I have complicated feelings about the hope question. Not a day goes by that I don't have a moment of sheer panic, raw terror, complete conviction that we are doomed, and then I do pull myself out of it. I'm renewed by this new generation that is so determined, so forceful. I'm inspired by the willingness to engage in electoral politics, because my generation, when we were in our 20s and 30s, there was so much suspicion around getting our hands dirty with electoral politics that we lost a lot of opportunities. What gives me the most hope right now is that we've finally got the vision for what we want instead, or at least the first rough draft of it. This is the first time this has happened in my lifetime. And also, I did decide to have kids. I have a seven year old who is so completely obsessed and in love with the natural world. When I think about him, after we've spent an entire summer talking about the role of salmon in feeding the forests where he was born in British Columbia, and how they are linked to the health of the trees and the soil and the bears and the orcas and this entire magnificent ecosystem, and I think about what it would be like to have to tell him that there are no more salmon, it kills me. So that motivates me. And slays me.

This story was originally published by The Guardian, and is republished here as part of the Covering Climate Now partnership to strengthen the media's focus on the climate crisis.

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