It is now widely recognized that probiotics offer a wide range of health benefits. Probiotics are essentially live bacteria that survive in the intestines but they are also naturally housed in fermented foods that have been either produced or preserved by the action of microorganisms (bacteria or yeast).

Regular consumption of probiotics has been shown to improve digestion, reduce the risk of gastrointestinal disturbances and disease, alleviate lactose intolerance, boost immunity, and even help lower cholesterol.

Related Article: Natural Ways To Reduce Your Cholesterol

When incorporating probiotics into your diet, I recommend choosing whole foods rich in fiber, protein, antioxidants, and other essential macronutrients and micronutrients. While foods like pickles, olives and sauerkraut are among the richest sources of probiotics, they aren’t necessarily ideal for everyday consumption.

Some of my personal favorite probiotic-containing foods that offer added health benefits include strained (Greek-style) yogurts and tempeh.

RECIPE: A Deliciously Creamy Spinach and Strawberry Yogurt Smoothie

In addition to probiotics, strained yogurts are naturally low in sugar, high in calcium, and incredibly rich in high-quality protein (about 17 grams per serving). Tempeh is a versatile vegan-friendly source of protein that also houses large amounts of fiber, which further promotes digestive health.

Another one of my preferred sources of probiotics is dark chocolate, as the polyphenol antioxidants it contains makes it that much more powerful as an immunity-boosting food.

Related Article: The Nutritional Power of Eating Chocolate

And, believe it or not, cooking with canned tomato products (paste, sauce, and stewed tomatoes) is yet another great way to get substantial quantities of probiotics into your diet. Unbeknownst to many, the nutritional quality of tomato is generally well preserved during the canning process. Plus, they contain exceptionally large quantities of a powerful antioxidant called lycopene, which promotes heart health.

RECIPE: Tomato Seafood Chowder with Turkey Bacon

When consumed regularly, probiotics have been proven beneficial for disease prevention and overall good health. To reap the full benefits of these friendly bacteria, I highly recommend including some of the foods I’ve highlighted in your diet.