Nutrition

7 probiotic foods to add to your diet

Sauerkraut-jar-pickled-cauliflower

7 probiotic foods to add to your diet

You may have heard they’re essential for supporting gut health, but ever wondered what a probiotic is? Often referred to as ‘friendly bacteria’ or ‘good bacteria’, probiotics are live microorganisms found in foods or supplements that can help give our digestive systems a helping hand. In particular, they can support our ‘microbiome’, the name for the trillions of bacteria that work together in your gut to help maintain many healthy bodily functions.

Why are probiotics good for you?

We’ve long talked about ‘having guts’ to mean bravery, or refer to a ‘gut feeling’ when we trust our instincts. However, we’re starting to learn that our guts really do play a part in more than just our digestion – including how we feel.

A healthy microbiome is linked to better gut health, and it’s believed this could be a vital factor in unlocking overall wellness benefits, including healthy skin, a healthy immune system, and even improving our mood and mental wellbeing.

By improving the diversity and strength of the ‘good’ bacteria in our gut, a probiotic might have positive effects on all these things.

Also read: How to build the perfect nourish bowl at home

Which foods have probiotic benefits?

live youghurt with fruit, granola and honey

There are certain foods that naturally contain probiotics, which you can add to your diet for a gut health boost. In addition, some people also choose to take a probiotic as a convenient supplement. Read on for some foods which are natural probiotics.

Live yoghurt

Perhaps the best-known probiotic food is live yoghurt, which is the name for yoghurt which contains live active cultures, or friendly bacteria.

Some of these yoghurt-dwelling cultures include – to give just one example – the bacteria lactobacillus acidophilus, which is naturally found in the gut. It’s associated with benefits for those with conditions including eczema and irritable bowel syndrome, as well as maintaining stable blood sugar levels.

Miso

Perhaps you already have a jar of miso paste at home to throw into your stir-fry, or have recently enjoyed a bowl of miso soup in a Japanese restaurant or noodle bar.

What you might not have realised is that miso, which is made from fermented soya beans and is a source of protein, also has probiotic qualities. It is associated with good digestive health, while some research has suggested that it might even help reduce risk of certain types of cancer (including breast and stomach). One 2020 Japanese study linked a higher intake of miso with a lower risk of premature death overall.

Kefir

A fermented milk drink similar to runny yoghurt, though typically with a slightly sourer taste, kefir is a source of probiotic bacteria as well as being a good source of calcium. Kefir also contains potassium and magnesium.

You can buy ready-made kefir drinks or buy kefir grains and make your own at home (look for tutorials online).

Kombucha

three glasses of fruit flavoured kombucha

Another fermented drink, but this time made from sweet tea. Crucially, kombucha also needs to contain a ‘symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts’ – commonly abbreviated to ‘scoby’, which is what gives kombucha its much-celebrated probiotic benefits.

Kimchi

A favourite in Korean cuisine, kimchi is a fermented vegetable dish with a punchy, flavourful hit, that is typically served as a side dish.

Kimchi originated as a way to preserve non-seasonal vegetables in the winter months (it usually contains cabbage). However, the fermentation process creates friendly bacteria that could help improve your microbiome and gut health.

Sauerkraut

Unless you’re German, sauerkraut might not be the first comfort food you reach for. But this fermented cabbage dish, famous for its pungent aroma and sour taste, is an overlooked ‘hero’ food.

This condiment, which can also be made from lettuce, is created when bacteria and yeast naturally present in the vegetables are cultivated by a pickling process that involves adding salt.

The result? When you eat it, your gut is able to reap the probiotic benefits. Try adding it to salads or soups – just don’t wash off the bacteria-rich brine.

Tempeh

A soya-bean-based, protein-rich alternative to meat, tempeh is naturally rich in probiotics. It may lose some or all of its bacterial benefits in the process of being cooked, but even so, the fermentation process is thought to make the minerals it contains – including calcium, magnesium and phosphorous – easier for our bodies to absorb.

Also read: Why is turmeric so good for us?

Should I take a bio cultures supplement?

If you’re not sure whether your diet contains a meaningful level of probiotic foods, you might want to consider taking a probiotic supplement. Nature’s Truth Lactobacillus Acidophilus capsules contain 500 million active cultures per serving and could help support that all-important healthy microbiome.

Or try the impressively named Nature’s Truth Bio Cultures 1 Billion capsules, which really do contain one billion active cultures per serving, to help support a healthy digestive system

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Nature's Truth

Nature's Truth

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