20 Best Probiotic Foods That Help Digestion To Include In Your Diet
If you want to get serious about your digestive health, probiotics are a must. In this article, Beauty and Tips takes a look at the best ones to include in your diet.
But first, just what are probiotics?
Probiotics are living micro-organisms that are a form of bacteria. The good news? They’re bacteria of the beneficial kind that optimise your body. They provide all kinds of benefits, including ones for your brain and mental wellbeing, but most of their benefits are centred on the digestive system. A number of people prefer to get their probiotics fix from supplements, but when you get them from food, you are not only going to enjoy the taste but you also get to absorb the other key nutrients, too. Let’s take a look at 20 great probiotic foods that help digestion to include in your diet.
Arguably the most famous of all probiotic foods is yogurt. It’s made from milk that’s been fermented with good bacteria, including bifidobacteria and lactic acid. As well as being a probiotic food, yogurt also has numerous other health benefits, too. It can help to lower high blood pressure, and it also boosts bone health. In children, it can prevent nasty side effects from antibiotics, and in adults it can ease the symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome. If you are lactose intolerance, yogurt is a better option than milk. This is because it converts lactose into lactic acid, and this is why yogurt can sometimes taste as though it’s gone off. All that being said, not all yogurt is a probiotic. Some yogurts have killed the live bacteria during processing. Always check the label to make sure what you’re purchasing is a legitimate probiotic food.
Not keen on yogurt? Try cultured soymilk instead! If you’re vegan, it’s an excellent source of probiotics.
A fermented soybean product, tempeh forms a patty. It tastes kinda like mushrooms and has a nutty flavour. Although it has its origins in Indonesia, tempeh is now popular all around the world, with a lot of vegetarians and vegans using it as a meat replacement. When it’s fermented, tempeh’s nutritional profile changes. The amount of phytic acid it contains is lowered, and this allows your body to absorb more beneficial minerals from tempeh. It’s also worth mentioning that, once it’s been fermented, tempeh produces a moderate amount of B12 vitamin. This is a key nutrient that soybeans don’t ordinarily contain. It’s usually found in animal products, such as eggs, fish and meat. All in all, then, tempeh is an excellent choice for both vegetarians and vegans.
If you’re a fan of Japanese food, you’ll know all about miso. If you’ve tried Japanese food before but only heard of miso and don’t really know what it is, miso is a seasoning from Japan that’s made from fermenting soybeans with koji (a fungus) and salt. It’s also possible to make miso by mixing together soybeans with the likes of rye, rice and barley. Most often, miso is found in miso soup, a salty soup that’s traditionally eaten for breakfast in Japan. What are its nutritional benefits? Miso is rich in fibre and protein, as well as copper, manganese and vitamin K. People who eat lots of miso have been found to reduce their risk of stroke.
Kvass is a traditional Russian drink that combines with a number fermented vegetable and fruit juices, included beets. It’s tasty!
Who said all food that’s good for your gut can’t be self-indulgent?! A real guilty pleasure, dark chocolate is also one of the finest super foods there is and is a good source of probiotics too. But how on earth can chocolate of all things be a probiotic? It’s all down to the fact that chocolate is actually a fermented food. Indeed! To get the most out of dark chocolate and its lively bacteria, the trick is to not eat too much or too little. One square per day is usually enough but since you’ll probably get tempted, we’ll look the other way if you eat two squares now and then!
Unlike chocolate, not everyone likes green peas. They’re a bit of an acquired taste. And like dark chocolate, it’s a bit of a surprise that green peas even are a probiotic food, right?! The truth is that green peas are pretty potent, when it comes to live bacteria. It contains the right kinds of beneficial bugs that are good for your immune system. The probiotics in green peas take care of your mucosal barrier in your digestive tract, warding off nasty toxins and infections. That being said, it’s a good idea to eat fresh peas instead of canned ones. Add them to the likes of omelettes, salads, soups and pasta dishes.
Maybe a bit less exotic than miso, pickles have been popular in the western world for a long time. Perhaps you might know them by their alternative name, gherkins. They are cucumbers which have been pickled in water and salt. Pickles usually take a long time to ferment, a process for which they use their own lactic acid content. The fermentation process is responsible for giving them their sour taste. They are an excellent probiotic food, and they’re also low in calories. Moreover, pickles also contain a good amount of vitamin K which helps your blood to clot, and they’re a good source of sodium. Some people eat pickles that are made using vinegar but this variation does NOT contain probiotics.
Natto is very much like miso and tempeh in that it’s a fermented soybean. It’s bacterial strain is known as bacillus subtilis and natto is super popular in Japanese restaurants. If you’ve ever eaten in one, you’ve probably tried it before. It’s usually combined with rice and is popular with breakfast dishes. That said, if you have tried natto before you’d probably remember it. It has a strong, unique smell, while its texture is best described as “slimy.” It’s an excellent source of vitamin K2 and protein, with the former nutrient important for good heart and bone health. Japanese men who consume natto have been studied, and it was found that consuming it frequently improved their bone mineral density. This is down to the vitamin K2.
Moving on from natto, how about beer and wine?! While we wouldn’t be so irresponsible to suggest that you make alcohol your go-to choice, when it comes to getting more probiotics into your system, beer and wine can be enjoyed in moderation. It’s all to do with the vitamin content that’s found in the barley grain that survives the fermentation process. These vitamins reduce the potential for blood clots and they can also improve your cholesterol. Wine in particular has lots of other advantages. It’s rich in resveratrol and other beneficial antioxidants. Remember that we’re only suggesting you drink alcohol in moderation, however. Take it easy!
Lassi is a smoothie made of cardamom, honey, fruit, yogurt and milk that’s often served in Indian restaurants to help wash down the hot food!
Now that you’re tempted by a glass of wine to improve your gut health, why not treat yourself to some olives, too? The green ones are the best ones, and the next time you order a Martini, order a double – double olives, of course! The reason olives taste so salty is because of their naturally present lactic acid bacteria. In other words, their good bacteria. Olives contain two strains of good bacteria, one of which has been shown to help people firm up their stomachs. These strains also reduce bloating and can decrease the symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome.
Not all cheeses are a probiotic food. Sure, most cheeses are fermented, but this isn’t the same as them all being a probiotic food. To help you pick the right cheeses, all you need to do is check the labels and look for active and live cultures. The best probiotic cheeses include cottage cheese, cheddar, mozzarella and the Dutch cheese, Gouda, which is well worth eating more of because it also contains vitamin K2, an otherwise hard-to-find nutrient. Cheese – when eaten in moderation at least – has also been linked to a reduction in both osteoporosis and heart disease. Cheese is ideal on a sandwich or on toast, while the likes of mozzarella work well on pizza.
Kombucha is a fermented green or black tea. It’s super popular in Asia, but it’s also growing in popularity in the western world. But which kombucha is a probiotic, its overall potential health effects are questionable at this point. There are a lot of claims on the internet about how powerful it is, but while its live probiotics are obviously good for your digestive health, we would take any other claims about kombucha’s health benefits with a pinch of salt at this point.
Popular with hipsters, sourdough bread is one of the healthiest ones you can eat. It’s also one of the easiest to digest. A lot of people seem to be under the impression that sourdough is a flavour, but it isn’t. Instead, sourdough is a fermentation process that sees friendly bacteria and wild yeast break down the sugar and gluten, before converting it into beneficial minerals, vitamins and proteins. Wonderful. But why is it called “sour” dough? This is to do with the taste that’s formed quite literally from the air. How it tastes exactly will depend on where you are.
Buttermilk is an umbrella term for a number of fermented dairy drinks, but there are two main types, one of which is traditional buttermilk. It’s nothing more than the liquid that’s leftover after making butter. Sounds a bit gross? It’s the only type of buttermilk that contains probiotics and it’s very good for your gut. It is, however, usually consumed in Pakistan, Nepal and India, and not really anywhere else. Cultured buttermilk is served in Western supermarkets but it’s not a probiotic food. If you can get your hands on traditional buttermilk, you should try it. It also contains phosphorus, calcium, riboflavin, vitamin B12, and it’s low in calories and fat.
Kimchi is popular in Korea and Korean restaurants, where it’s used as a fermented side dish. It typically contains cabbage as its primary ingredient, while seasonings such as salt, scallion, ginger, garlic and chili flakes are used to flavour it. Like a lot of the other foods on this list, kimchi contains lactic acid bacteria that has been show to improve gut health. And when it’s made using cabbage as its main ingredient, it also contains lots of iron, vitamin B2 and vitamin K. It’s spicy and if you love your spicy food you should definitely try it!
Kefir is a type of yogurt that’s smooth and tangy. It contains lots of various live cultures and is 99% lactose-free. This means even those with angry stomachs should be able to get away with consuming it. That said, we recommend that you take it slowly at first if you have lactose intolerance. Take it one sip at a time. If you feel okay, take more sips. One of the best advantages of kefir is that it fills you up nicely!
Some people absolutely love sauerkraut, others are not sure while the rest of us have never heard of it! It’s a cabbage condiment that’s usually added to a hot dog but it’s been around a lot longer than greasy food stands. In fact, its origins can be traced all the way back to the 4th century BC! Because cabbage is fermented to keep the vegetable edible, sauerkraut is born. That said, you should only eat fresh sauerkraut if you want to get all the probiotic advantages. In canned form, the vinegar solution removes the live bacteria. Not cool.
Lastly, this one isn’t a widely recognised probiotic, but poi actually contains more live culture than yogurt. It’s typically used in Hawaii, where it’s a hugely popular type of bread.
Stay happy and healthy!