When I hear the word bacteria, I still get chills imagining the endless wait on a freezing chair at the doctor’s office with those fluorescent lights glaring at me.

Though bacteria has received a bad rap because of its propensity to result in food poisoning or strep throat, many are surprised to learn that there is an abundant number of bacteria you can consume to help you prevent certain illnesses.

These new findings explore the array of health roles fermented foods can play in helping us become centenarians one day.

Before I delve into the details, you’re probably wondering, what the heck are fermented foods anyways? This is alarming because I assume most of you are practically fermentation experts. The process of fermentation is the chemical breakdown of bacteria, yeasts or other microorganisms. In other words, this is how beer and wine are created.

However, these are not the substances I suggest drastically increasing your intake of; I am referring to the foods that harbor beneficial bacteria, frequently referred to as probiotics.

Though foods with considerable amounts of these probiotics have been praised for thousands of years, contemporary medical researchers are continuing to uncover the many reasons why they should be a staple in your daily diet (if not already).

According to a longitudinal study conducted by Tufts University, researchers determined subjects that consumed one serving of yogurt every three days were 31 percent less likely to develop high blood pressure compared to their nonconsuming counterparts. Though the study did not explore how yogurt could lead to such correlation, probiotics may play an indirect role in the results that were obtained.

Many types of yogurt are known to contain gut-promoting microbes that are found in other fermented foods like kombucha, sauerkraut, kefir, and kimchi. Past studies suggest these foods can benefit the body by improving digestion, enhancing nutrient absorption and increasing the food’s natural vitamin content.

In a metagenomic study published recently in Nature, scientists at the Beijing Genomics Institute at Shenzhen assessed variances in gut microbiota, or micro-organisms that inhabit the gastrointestinal tract, to assess its relationship to Type 2 diabetes risk. Researchers found that these beneficial bacteria seemed to have a defensive role in preventing the formation of Type 2 diabetes.

Jun Wang, head of the Bioinformatics Dept. at BGI, explained that as the human’s so-called ‘second genome,’ the gut microbiome has an extremely close relationship with human health.

We have such an aversion to bacteria that we regularly consume antibiotics and use antibacterial products whenever possible. Though these products all have their purposes, consider how good bacteria and fermented foods can improve your heath. There are a tremendous number of ways your body will function better by introducing more of these in your diet.