What are probiotic foods?
Simply put, probiotic foods are foods that contain live microorganisms. While this may seem a little scary at first, these organisms have lots of benefits. Probiotic foods are fermented, which is the process by which a substance — in this case some type of food — is broken down into a simpler form.
Types of probiotics
If you’re trying to add more probiotics to your diet, there are two main options: a probiotic supplement or probiotic food. While a high-quality supplement can be just as beneficial as probiotic foods, you do need to make sure that it has a high enough concentration of live active cultures. Most supplements like this are a little expensive and require refrigeration.
By eating probiotic foods, you get the live active cultures as well as the other nutrients in the food, which can be a better option.
Benefits of probiotic-rich foods
One of the main benefits of probiotic foods is the positive effect they have on your digestive system. Probiotics support a healthy gut by increasing the number of good bacteria in your digestive system, which then helps minimize the levels of harmful bacteria and can even help you lose weight. Some research has also shown evidence that probiotics can improve mental health, keep your heart healthy, and even reduce the symptoms of eczema and some allergies. While many popular probiotic foods are dairy based, there are several vegan probiotic foods, including some on the following list.
Yogurt is a great choice for those just beginning the journey into probiotic foods. It’s relatively inexpensive and easy to find at the grocery store. It’s also a great probiotic food for toddlers. However, it’s important to understand that not all yogurts offer the same benefits. For a yogurt to have the benefits of probiotics, you need one that says it has live active cultures. You may also want to consider an option that doesn’t have a lot of added sugar, as this can negate some of the helpful effect probiotics have on your system.
Cheese is another good probiotic food because it’s easily accessible and inexpensive. Aged cheeses usually provide the most probiotics, and good options to look for include aged cheddar, provolone, and Gruyere. For an even bigger health boost, consider brands that use milk from grass-fed, pastured cows.
Kefir is a popular fermented food option that provides probiotic benefits. Kefir is like a thinner, watered-down yogurt, and it comes in a variety of flavors. It’s easy to find at most grocery stores, and it’s one of the better probiotic foods for kids because you can add it to shakes and smoothies, drink it straight, or add some granola and eat it with a spoon for breakfast. Kefir has a lot of probiotics in it naturally, and consuming it on a daily basis can help with everything from diarrhea to constipation.
While it may be a little harder to find non-dairy probiotic foods, it’s not impossible. You may already be eating one you didn’t even know about. If sauerkraut is one of your favorite toppings or side dishes, you’re in luck. This fermented food is high in natural probiotics. Adding a helping to a sandwich or bratwurst gives you a nice serving of vegetables as well.
For those who aren’t a fan of the taste of some fermented foods, pickles are a great familiar option and are easy to incorporate into your diet. They’re also a good option for vegan eaters looking for probiotic food options. However, if you have high blood pressure or any other health concerns that can be affected by sodium, you’ll want to eat pickles in moderation.
Miso soup is a classic Japanese dish that packs a powerful health punch with protein-rich sardines, kelp that’s high in vitamins and minerals, and immune-system-boosting shiitake mushrooms. This soup is easy to make on your own, or you can buy it already prepared. There are also vegetarian options for those who prefer not to eat fish.
Kombucha is commonly found on lists of probiotic foods, and for good reason. This fermented drink is made with green or black tea and is very high in probiotics. It can also be a good source of vitamin B and is easy to incorporate into your daily routine. One thing to keep in mind with this option is that the high fermentation makes it slightly alcoholic. While it’s not restricted in the same way as beer or other drinks, some people do report getting a little buzz off it. It’s a good idea to avoid driving or working after drinking it until you find out how it affects you.
Tempeh is on this list of high probiotic foods because it’s a great vegan option that’s made from fermented soybeans. It doesn’t have a lot of flavor, just a slightly nutty taste, so it goes well with lots of dishes. Tempeh also has fewer calories than tofu and can be added to everything from bread to stir fry dishes. It’s also fairly easy to make at home if you prefer to have more control over ingredients and the cooking process.