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If you’re keen to add more probiotic benefit into your life, the good news is that there are plenty of foods which can help you do that.
First things first however, how much do you really know about probiotics?
- What are Probiotics?
- Food or Supplement?
- Do Probiotic Foods Really Support Gut Health?
- Do You Take Probiotics With Food, or on an Empty Stomach?
- Top 20 Probiotic Foods to Try
- 1 – Yogurt
- 2 – Kefir
- 3 – Sauerkraut
- 4 – Tempeh
- 5 – Kimchi
- 6 – Miso
- 7 – Kombucha
- 8 – Gherkins and Pickles
- 9 – Buttermilk (The Traditional Type)
- 10 – Natto
- 11 – Cheese (But Not All Kinds)
- 12 – Dark Chocolate
- 13 – Apples
- 14 – Microalgae
- 15 – Soy Milk
- 16 – Olives
- 17 – Dosa
- 18 – Dhokla
- 19 – Sourdough Bread
- 20 – Acidophilus Milk
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are actually bacteria and yeasts which live in your gut and digestive system overall. The word ‘bacteria’ might be a little worrying, but don’t worry at all, these bacteria are the friendly type, and your body needs them to fight off the bad bacteria, and to keep everything running as smoothly as possible.
Without good bacteria, you are going to slip into bad health, illness, and your digestive system is going to be completely out of whack.
When you replenish any good bacteria you’ve lost (perhaps through taking antibiotics due to illness) and you keep a good supply in your gut, you reap major benefits, and you can also boost your immune system at the same time!
Food or Supplement?
Probiotics are found in many different foods, but it’s also possible to take a supplement too, especially if you struggle to pack many of the foods into your daily diet.
These supplements are often a tablet, capsule, or commonly a yoghurt-style drink which you enjoy daily, and gives you the benefits which the natural foods would too.
Despite that, we believe natural is always the best route. If you’re wondering which probiotic foods you should be trying to add into your daily meals, look no further.
We’re going to check out the top twenty probiotic foods that are super healthy, super delicious, and have a high level of probiotic content at the same time.
First things first however. How effective are these foods?
Do Probiotic Foods Really Support Gut Health?
Probiotics is an area which a lot of research is still going into. Whilst we know these healthy flora are beneficial, we don’t have a yard stick on just how beneficial, as well as if there are any possible side effects at any point along the way.
Studies have shown that probiotic foods, when eaten as part of a healthy diet, can help to support your overall gut health.
It does this by helping to affect the nerve transmitters in the gut which move food through the intestines.
As a result, your digestive system runs more smoothly and nothing is slowed down, which is the common cause of complications, such as IBS, bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, etc.
A study by the Polish Journal of Microbiology in 2014 revealed that fermented food, such as soy, can help to boost supplies of healthy bacteria, therefore boosting overall gut health and immunity.
Do You Take Probiotics With Food, or on an Empty Stomach?
If you’re getting your probiotic intake via your food, that already answers the question.
However if you’re taking a supplement, you might be wondering whether you need to take them with a meal, or whether you can take them without, i.e. on an empty stomach.
The answer is quite unclear, because it depends on the type of probiotic, the brand, and the instructions on the label. In that case, the best advice is to check the instructions on the bottle and always adhere to them.
However in general the best time to take you probiotic supplement is with food in the morning. This limits the chance that your stomach acids negate the effects of the good bacteria. Taking it in the morning also ensures you have the whole day to reap the benefits.
Top 20 Probiotic Foods to Try
Some of the foods we’re about to mention are more readily available than others, and some are easier to incorporate into a diet than others.
There is a great range of probiotic foods out there, which you can try and use to boost your overall health and wellbeing.
There is nothing stopping you from taking a supplement at the same time, if you feel you’re not getting enough from your diet alone.
1 – Yogurt
Without a doubt one of the easiest foods to incorporate into a diet that is more probiotically minded is yogurt.
Most of the probiotic drinks which are on the market are yogurt based, which boosts the benefits, but also makes them much more palatable too.
Yogurt itself is made from milk, and this has been through a fermentation process which included bacteria which is friendly to the gut, absorbed into the final product. Yogurt overall has some great health benefits, as well as helping with bone density.
When choosing the right yogurt to go for, avoid the high sugar, overly flavoured varieties, and instead stick with yogurt which says it included live or active cultures – this is your probiotic boost.
2 – Kefir
Along a similar line to yogurt, kefir is a milky drink which is fermented, made from milk and kefir grain.
The grain itself isn’t the type of grain you would expect, and is actually a culture of bacteria and yeast, which is completely positive for your cut.
Known for its immunity properties, as well as supporting bone health, kefir is usually quite suitable for those who may be intolerant to lactose, and is actually a better probiotic source than yogurt.
3 – Sauerkraut
Munch alongside your hot dog if you want, but sauerkraut is a fantastic source of probiotic content, and is again a source of fermented food. This is a cabbage which has been shredded very finely and fermented in a type of bacteria, from lactic acid.
You’ll find Sauerkraut to be very popular in European countries, especially Germany, and is quite readily available.
In addition, sauerkraut is high in C, B, and K vitamins, sodium, iron, manganese, and fiber, as well as several antioxidants.
Always go for the unpasteurised version, as this is where you will get most of your probiotic benefit from.
4 – Tempeh
Tempeh is a product derived from soybeans and is also a fermented option once more. When sold it is in a patty, and is a great alternative to meat for vegetarians, which is high in protein.
Alongside this, tempeh is high in B12, which is actually more commonly found in products which are not at all suitable for vegetarians.
This makes tempeh a great choice, as well as having a high probiotic content at the same time.
5 – Kimchi
Most commonly found in Korean cooking, kimchi is a side dish with a spicy kick, and has a very high probiotic content.
Within the dish you will find cabbage, which has a high vitamin content, as well as iron too.
From a probiotic standpoint, kimchi has several types of positive bacteria within it, which supports gut health and overall wellbeing.
6 – Miso
If you love miso soup, there is some good news, as it is a very good probiotic food to add to your repertoire.
Miso is made of fermented soybeans, which has a high vitamin K, copper, manganese, protein and fiber content, as well as probiotics.
Studies have also shown that eating miso can help to reduce the risk of stroke in women.
7 – Kombucha
Usually taken as a tea, kombucha is a haven for friendly yeasts and bacterias, as well as having a lot of other potential health benefits.
The fact that kombucha is fermented in these bacterias gives it is major probiotic content.
However there is a lack of firm evidence in terms of the other health benefits it might have. Studies are therefore ongoing.
8 – Gherkins and Pickles
If you love pickles then there is some good news. These pickled cucumbers are high in probiotic content, due to the natural fermentation process.
In addition, gherkins and pickles are very low in fat and calories, high in vitamin K, and add flavour to many dishes.
Do try and go for the types which are not pickled in vinegar, as the live cultures are generally killed off by the acidity of the vinegar.
9 – Buttermilk (The Traditional Type)
There are several different types of buttermilk, but the traditional type, mainly found in the Indian region, is very high in probiotic content.
Buttermilk is actually a fermented drink. It is very low in calories and has several other beneficial ingredients, such as vitamin B12 and calcium, as well as riboflavin.
Avoid the types you will find in supermarkets generally, i.e. cultured, as these do not have probiotic content.
10 – Natto
If you love Japanese cooking then you might be familiar with natto. This is product derived from soybeans and is fermented, much like miso.
The bacteria within natty is fantastic for gut health. In addition it is also high in vitamin K2, as well as protein.
11 – Cheese (But Not All Kinds)
There are certain cheese which have probiotic content, but you need to be careful which you choose. Chowing down on any old cheese is not going to give you what you need.
The main types you need to go for are gouda, mozzarella, cheddar, and cottage cheese.
This is because the bacteria in the process of producing cheese (ageing) manages to survive in these varieties, but not in others.
Alongside this, we know that cheese is generally quite good for you, in moderation, and is high calcium and various vitamins, such as B12.
12 – Dark Chocolate
In moderation (remember that word) dark chocolate has been shown to be quite high in probiotic content.
There is also a huge amount of antioxidants in dark chocolate too. This is ideal for boosting the immune system.
Avoid the milk and white varieties of chocolate, as they have zero probiotic content.
When we mention the word ‘moderation’, we literally mean one square. Sorry.
13 – Apples
There is a lot of debate into whether there is a huge amount of probiotic use in apples.
Recent studies have shown that if you eat apples regularly, the amount of good bacteria in your gut are multiplied.
This can help to support overall gut health and balance within the body.
14 – Microalgae
Sounds terrible, but actually flavoursome and very high in probiotic content. Microalgae refers to plants which have lived in the ocean, such as spirulina and chorella.
These two plants in particular have a high probiotic content and help to boost the two main types of good bacteria in the gastrointestinal system, e.g. bifidobacteria and lactobacillus.
15 – Soy Milk
We’ve mentioned soy a few times in different guises, but soy milk overall is a great natural probiotic drink.
It is ideal for those who are lactose intolerant too.
In addition to this, you’re getting protein as well, but do be careful when you buy supermarket soy milk, to ensure it contains live cultures.
16 – Olives
This is a good excuse to enjoy a healthy pizza, because olives are quite high in probiotic content.
The brine which olives are contained within helps to boost the cultures of the bacteria to colonise and grow, as well as giving you a very versatile food to add to your diet.
17 – Dosa
The Indian dish, dosa, is a great source of probiotics.
Whilst it isn’t readily found in supermarkets, if you visit an Indian restaurant specialising in South Indian dishes, you’ll certainly find it on the menu.
This is a dish which is made with rice and lentils fermented over time, which gives the live bacteria time to colonise within the dish. Very high in probiotics and other vitamins.
18 – Dhokla
This is another Indian style dish, and very high in probiotics. The dish is made with gram flour which is fermented, as well as being healthy and low in fat.
You will probably struggle to find it in supermarkets, but if you’re travelling, or if you want to have a go at making it yourself, you will gain probiotic benefit.
19 – Sourdough Bread
Studies have shown sourdough bread to be very nutritious and beneficial to health, especially in those who struggle to eat other types of bread and gluten products.
The lactic acid bacteria is also a great source of probiotics. So perhaps try to swap your regular bread for sourdough next time. It can also be a lot tastier.
20 – Acidophilus Milk
This type of milk is produced with a specific type of bacteria within it, and gives you a fantastic boost of probiotic benefit.
Fermented from the get-go, this is a sweet type of milk and can loosely be compared to buttermilk, which we have already mentioned previously.
As you can see, there are plenty of healthy and delicious foods you can add into your diet, to get your probiotic intake on a daily basis.
Josh is a qualified personal trainer and nutritionist based in Sydney Australia. He is passionate about helping people reach their health and fitness goals through proper nutrition choices. Josh also holds a Bachelor of Commerce and Juris Doctor from The University of Melbourne.
You can connect with Josh here on Twitter or Facebook.