Your Body Is a Microbe Farm: Here Are 5 Foods to Cultivate it

It’s sometimes funny to me how freaked out humans are about bacteria. All we need is one little study that tells us there are bacteria on our food or bathroom sink, and we’re sterilizing everything in sight. If you’re one of these bacteria-phobes, brace yourself: there are more than 100 trillion microbes from more than 500 bacterial species living on and in your body RIGHT NOW.

Still holding it together? OK then here’s the good news: these little organisms are supposed to be in your body. In fact without them, you’d probably be in the hospital, or dead. We and the bacteria are symbiotes (any Star Wars fans in here?), which means we need each other to survive. The microbes coating our skin, mucus membranes and gastrointestinal tracts help keep pathogens in check, break down food, enhance nutrient absorption, regulate your mood and boost immune system function. In turn, we’re expected to eat the types of things that these microbes need to do their jobs, 24 hours a day. Unfortunately, we often fail our bacteria.

In order to keep our body’s microscopic residents happy, it’s essential to replenish their ranks on a regular basis. This means eating what are often called “cultured,” or “naturally probiotic” foods. These are foods and beverages that are often fermented in some way, giving beneficial bacteria a chance to grow. When you ingest these foods, it’s like sending reinforcements to the army of gut bacteria working to fight pathogens that would make you sick or interrupt proper digestion.

Willfully eating bacteria-ridden foods might sound strange and scary, but as youll see from the list below, many probiotic foods are commonly found in grocery stores, or easy to make.

1. Yogurt

cultured foods yogurt

Live-cultured yogurt is an easy way to give your body a regular dose of healthy bacteria. The only problem is that most commercial yogurt brands are filled high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners and artificial flavors. These nasty ingredients overpower the bacteria’s healthy benefits, which is why it’s better to make your own (don’t worry, it’s surprisingly easy, even if you don’t eat dairy!).

Read: Healthy Homemade Yogurt Recipe or Make Your Own Dairy-Free Yogurt

2. Miso

miso cultured foods

Common in Asian cooking and medicine, miso is a paste made from rye, beans, rice or barley and allowed to ferment for 3 months to 3 years. Among other things, miso is known to restore beneficial probiotics to the intestines, strengthen the immune system and aid digestion.

Read: 10 Benefits and Uses for Miso

3. Sauerkraut

sauerkraut cultured foods

Popular in European cuisine, sauerkraut is made from fermented cabbage (and sometimes other vegetables). When you buy commercial sauerkraut many of the beneficial bacteria have been killed by pasteurization, but you can retain sauerkraut’s health benefits by making it at home.

Read: Easy Raw Probiotic Sauerkraut Recipe (with variations)

4. Kombucha Tea

kombucha cultured foods

This probiotic beverage has become increasingly popular, and is often found in conventional grocery stores. Kombucha is a raw, fermented, probiotic, and naturally carbonated tea made by mixing water, sweetener and tea with a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) that looks like a large jelly-pancake. Although the taste can take some getting used to, kombucha fans (myself included) find that drinking it relieves a number of ailments, in particular digestive, intestinal issues.

Read: How to Brew Kombucha Tea and How to Grow a Kombucha SCOBY

5. Pickled Vegetables

pickled vegetables cultured foods

As Care2 contributor Delia Quigley once wrote: “Pickles contain large amounts of lactobacilli bacteria, which are important to the digestion of grains and vegetables. One property common to all pickles is high fiber, which is important to proper intestinal functioning.” The key is to pickle things yourself rather than buying highly-processed commercial brands.

Read: DIY Live Culture Pickles, Radish and Root Vegetable Kimchi Recipe, Easy Pickled Vegetables

Also See: 6 Surprising Sources of Probiotics [Slideshow]

All images via Thinkstock


Jim Ven
Jim Ven7 months ago

thanks for the article.

Panchali Yapa
Panchali Yapa2 years ago

Thank you

Franck Rio
Frank R2 years ago

Thanks for sharing

Kyle N.
Kyle N3 years ago

Those foods could clear a room a few hrs after eating them.

Bryna Pizzo
Bryna Pizzo3 years ago

Thank you for the list and the instructions! I've put this page on my favorites list.

Sonia Minwer Barakat Requ
Sonia M3 years ago

Love yogurt.Good info,thanks for sharing

Panchali Yapa
Panchali Yapa3 years ago

Thank you :)

Franck R.
Frank R3 years ago

Thank you

Angela J.
Angela J3 years ago

Thank you.

Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne R3 years ago

Thank you.