America is fat. We all know that. And sure, more exercise and less food typically leads to weight loss. In fact, there are countless diets and workout routines dedicated to getting that swimsuit body. But what if the chemical makeup of our bodies--specifically the levels and types of bacteria and viruses--affects how our bodies metabolize and store fat.
In Greek, probiotic is a compound word: pro, meaning “for” or “in support of”, and biotic, meaning “life”. Probiotics are live bacteria found in food and supplements. These so-called "friendly bacteria" live in the digestive tract of the body, namely the intestines.
Probiotics change your brain, affecting weight loss.
What? Your brain? Yes. Here’s the skinny: if your gut is full of unhealthy bacteria, you will likely have a higher level of stress and anxiety. Higher stress means higher levels of stress hormones like cortisol. Studies--lots of them--show that life’s inevitable stressful events trigger the release of cortisol into the body, and thus leads to the onset of chronic gastrointestinal disturbances. Elevated cortisol levels (and the ensuing stomach problems) make the body insensitive to insulin.
The American Journal of Physiology conducted a study on cortisol levels, insulin sensitivity, and visceral belly fat in men. The result, in short? Fat men = more cortisol and less insulin sensitivity. They put the overweight men on a high-protein diet, supplemented with probiotics for six months. The health improvements were significant across the board: less belly fat, less total body fat, less cortisol and improved insulin sensitivity.
Here are five foods rich in probiotics.
1. Yogurt - One of the best and most well-known probiotic foods is live-cultured yogurt. Be sure to check the label. Look for goat milk yogurt, and avoid yogurts filled with high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners.
2. Kefir - A cousin to yogurt, this fermented dairy product is a unique combination of goat milk and fermented kefir grains.
3. Sauerkraut - Go ahead and have that reuben sandwich! Typically made from fermented cabbage, sauerkraut is not only extremely rich in healthy live cultures, but also vitamins B, A, E and C.
4. Dark Chocolate - A healthy dessert? Indeed. It’s not in all of it, but probiotics can be added to high-quality dark chocolate (up to four times the amount of probiotics as other dairy products).
5. Pickles - Believe it or not, the common green pickle is an excellent food source of probiotics. There are lots of easy ways to make your own too.
New research concerning probiotics is coming out constantly. Stay informed. Stay healthy. And good luck with probiotics!