Everyone wants a healthier gut, glowing skin and a kick ass immune system, yet these things can seem just out of reach. One way you can improve your health could be by including probiotics in your diet.
What are probiotics I hear you ask? Probiotics are living microorganisms that when you consume enough of them can provide health benefits(1). You might have heard them called ‘good bacteria’. The bacteria you want in your gut basically.
Benefits of probiotics
- Improved gut health: probiotics can help improve overall gut health such as improved digestion and reduced bloating, but also help with conditions such as IBS or an upset stomach caused by food poisoning(2,3)
- Better skin: probiotics have been shown to help improve acne and could also help with skin problems such as eczema
- Improved mood and mental health: your gut and your brain are linked, something that is called the gut-brain axis. The mechanisms have not been fully worked out but we know that improved gut health can lead to improved mood and a reduction in anxiety and depression
- A better immune system: with increased probiotic intake, came better immune function, which can help you fight off common colds and avoid winter bugs
This is just some of the benefits of including probiotics in your diet and new research is constantly being conducted to determine how these little bacteria are beneficial to us.
Research is still ongoing as to the number of probiotics you need to take to benefit from them. A good rule of thumb is to aim to include them as a regular part of a healthy balanced diet. You may also think of increasing your intake of probiotic-rich foods further if you have had a recent bout of food poisoning, are taking antibiotics, or just feel that your gut health hasn’t been top-notch.
Don’t confuse probiotics and prebiotics, they are two different things. Probiotics are the good bacteria we want to introduce to our gut. Prebiotics are a type of fibre that ‘feed’ the good bacteria in your gut, encouraging it to grow(4).
Want to learn more about these cool microorganisms? Check out my post An Intro To Probiotics.
There are loads of probiotic supplements out there that can help you get a hit of daily probiotics you. But they can come with a hefty price tag. The great thing about including probiotic rich foods in to your diet means not only do you get your daily dose of good bacteria, but also the benefit of fibre and micronutrients found naturally in these foods. As a plus, they usually taste pretty great!
Hopefully, I’ve convinced you to try some probiotic foods but maybe you aren’t sure where to start. You might have noticed some of the commonly known probiotic foods aren’t vegan, such as kefir or live yogurt. Thankfully, there is a wealth of probiotic filled vegan friendly foods for you to try.
Take a look at the below list of all the foods you can include in your diet to increase your intake of probiotics.
Vegan Probiotic Foods
A traditional Korean side dish of fermented cabbage and spices. Tasty in a vegetable stir fry or a sandwich, this is not one to be missed. Full of lactic acid bacteria, this is a great way to get your daily dose of probiotics. Look for a fresh variety, as some of the longer shelf life versions may have been through a process to increase shelf life but has killed off any of the good bacteria you are looking for.
Also made with cabbage, this is a less spicy version of kimchi. An eastern European side dish, literally translated means sour cabbage. A great option to put with your hot dogs and burgers. As with kimchi, aim to eat fresh sauerkraut to ensure you get all of the probiotic goodness.
Tempeh is made with fermented soybeans. Not so well known as tofu, but one hundred percent worth trying. Add it to curries instead of meat, or used sliced tempeh in a burger (with sauerkraut). Not only is this a great source of probiotics, but it is also high in protein. Great for vegetarians or vegans looking for a tasty meat alternative.
Also made with fermented soybeans, this can easily be made into a sauce for some stir-fried noodles, or make yourself a cup of warming miso soup.
A fermented tea containing a tiny bit of alcohol and is slightly carbonated thanks to the fermentation process. The plain flavoured kombucha can take a bit of getting used to, but thankfully there are loads of flavours to try. Opt for a ginger kombucha if you want to settle your stomach as ginger has been shown to help with nausea(5).
Not a fan of kombucha? Try water kefir instead. Not as tangy as kombucha, water kefir has more of a sweet flavour that you may prefer. In the UK kombucha appears to be more widely available.
Eat them out of the jar, in a martini, or mixed into a delicious pasta dish. However you prefer them, these tasty bites are not to be missed. They also contain monounsaturated fatty acids, which is good for your heart health(6).
Just because it is not made with dairy does not mean it is probiotic free. The fermentation process means yogurt can still contain probiotics. Plus some manufacturers will also add probiotics at the end of the making process. Take a look at the ingredients of the yogurt you are choosing, if probiotics have been added in they should be listed on the ingredients.
Some brands that contain active live cultures include alpro yogurts, actimel yogurt drinks, the coconut collab
Be aware that not all fermented foods contain probiotics. For example, foods such as beer or soy sauce, are fermented foods. However, due to the heat-treating process, any live bacteria (probiotics) will have been killed off.
Probiotic rich foods are a great addition to any diet. Adding a few servings of these foods each day is a fantastic way to improve your overall health and ensure your gut stays happy. There are so many fermented foods containing this good bacteria that there is something to suit everyone’s tastes.
What is your favourite probiotic rich food? Let me know in the comments below.
- Hill, C., Guarner, F., Reid, G., Gibson, G.R., Merenstein, D.J., Pot, B., Morelli, L., Canani, R.B., Flint, H.J., Salminen, S. and Calder, P.C., 2014. Expert consensus document: The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics consensus statement on the scope and appropriate use of the term probiotic. Nature reviews Gastroenterology & hepatology.
- Kechagia, M., Basoulis, D., Konstantopoulou, S., Dimitriadi, D., Gyftopoulou, K., Skarmoutsou, N. and Fakiri, E.M., 2013. Health benefits of probiotics: a review. International Scholarly Research Notices, 2013.
- Harvard Health: https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/probiotics-may-help-boost-mood-and-cognitivefunction#:~:text=Probiotics%20can%20do%20more%20than,called%20the%20gut%2Dbrain%20axis.
- Pandey, K., Naik, S. and Vakil, B., 2015. Probiotics, prebiotics and synbiotics-a review. Journal of food science and technology, 52(12), pp.7577-7587.
- Ernst, E. and Pittler, M.H., 2000. Efficacy of ginger for nausea and vomiting: a systematic review of randomized clinical trials. British journal of anaesthesia, 84(3), pp.367-371.
- Heart Health: https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/monounsaturated-fats#:~:text=Monounsaturated%20fats%20can%20help%20reduce,and%20maintain%20your%20body’s%20cells.