Probiotic Foods contain live microbes. The friendly bacteria present in probiotics have many beneficial effects for our gut, brain and immunity.
They have both nutritional and medicinal health effects. That’s why probiotic foods are often classified as functional foods.
In this post, you will get to know probiotic foods that come right out of your kitchen to give you much needed dose of friendly bacteria.
You will also learn about the health functions, benefits and types of probiotic foods. Let’s check it out!
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics contain blends of live microbes such as bacteria, yeasts and fungi. The microbes present in probiotics are called friendly bacteria. This is because, they support the functioning and health of our digestive system.
Different probiotic foods contain different types and quantity of friendly microbes.
That’s why when we consume probiotcs on regular basis, it helps to establish a healthy gut microbiome.
Probiotics can either be ingested or applied on the skin, where they are absorbed for specific health results.
Our Gut Microbiome
Different microbes are present in various amounts in different body parts such as skin, brain, mouth, stomach, and intestines. Each has their own role, supportive environment, and hence impact on our body.
There is nearly 10 times the number of microbes in our body as compared to the human cells. Hence, for the proper functioning of our body, it is highly critical that we take great care of these tiny beings, also known as our “microbiome”.
Our “gut” or the digestive tract is home to trillions of microbes, which benefit our health and support the functioning of our body.
These tiny beneficial organisms consist of diverse range of bacteria, yeast, fungi, protozoa, virus, and archaea. Collectively, they are called as Gut Microbiome or Gut Flora.
Together, these microbes have developed a foolproof ecosystem. The health and functioning of our digestive system depends heavily on the health of our gut microbiome.
It is important to take care of Gut Microbiome
When there is disturbance in the types of gut bacteria or the overall quantity of microbes in our gut, it affects our health and mood. That’s why it is important to maintain the range and quantity of our gut bacteria.
Different probiotic foods provide different types of friendly microbes. That’s why we should try to include a variety of probiotics in our diet.
Regular intake of probiotic foods is perhaps one of the easiest and best ways to support our microbiome.
Health Functions of Probiotic Foods
Probiotics restore and balance out the microbial community in our body. Regular use of probiotic foods supports the composition and also functioning of our gut microbiome.
Healthful bacteria and microbes from probiotic foods have following effects on our body:
- Probiotics boost the functioning of the immune system. They provide essential nutrients, remove pathogens, and support secretion of required hormones.
- Reduces Negative Effects of Certain Antibiotics
- They support the function and maintain the pH of our gastrointestinal tract. This helps to prevent related disorders such as IBS, Celiac disease, and also counter food allergies.
- Probiotics produce essential nutrients such as Vitamins and also enhance the availability/absorption of the nutrients.
- Inhibits the Growth of Harmful Bacteria
- Encourages Regularity
- Alleviates Constipation, Diarrhea, and IBS
- Reduces Lactose Intolerance
- Discourages Yeast Infections and Vaginitis
- Reduces the Risk of Diabetes
- Discourages Allergies and Asthma
- Reduces Inflammation
- Promotes Healthy Skin
- Reduces Eczema Breakouts
- Promote mental wellness, better sleep and improve brain function
Health Disorders that Probiotic Foods can Prevent
Probiotic foods can help to relieve the health symptoms for patients, who are suffering from chronic health problems of digestion, toxin buildup and poor mental health.
For example, probiotics have provided remarkable results in cases of depression, irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, and inflammation.
They have been successful in cases where years of pharmaceutical medicines could not help.
Several studies have been done on the effect of probiotics. It has been found that they are helpful in treating several health problems such as:
- Digestive disorders such as Bloating, irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease
- Some probiotics help in preventing diarrhea caused by infections and antibiotics
- Allergic disorders such as eczema and allergic rhinitis (hay fever)
- Colic in infants
- Oral health problems including tooth decay and periodontal disease
- Liver disease
- Cold and Flu
- They produce neurotransmitter hormones such as GABA and Serotonin. It directly communicates with our brain and affects our mood. Probiotics are used to treat several mental health disorders and to fight off depression.
Types of Probiotics
Our microbiome can go out of balance resulting in various disorders. Some of the health issues arising from poor gut health are obesity, diabetes, depression, anxiety, and even skin or hair related disorders.
This happens due to various factors that could be due to change in environment, diet, travel, or due to contact with pathogens.
Some of the widely used probiotics include few main groups that involve bacteria and yeasts as listed below.
This is the most familiar probiotic. You can get it from yogurt and other fermented foods. It can treat diarrhea and these may help people who fail to digest lactose, the sugar in milk.
It is present in some dairy products. It may help reduce the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and some other conditions.
It is a yeast, found in some probiotics. It also helps to cure diarrhea and other digestive problems.
Top Probiotic Foods to include in your diet!
Probiotics are introduced in foods in the form of condiments, beverages, and or probiotic foods. A majority of the probiotics utilized in the food industry produce lactic acid that preserves the dairy products.
Probiotics are utilized as starting cultures, co-cultures, and as bio-protective cultures.
1. Yogurt or Curd
Yogurt is the most common and one of the best source of probiotics. It contains beneficial bacteria that can improve your gut health.
Yogurt is prepared from milk by the process of fermentation by friendly bacteria, lactic acid bacteria, and bifidobacteria.
You can consume yogurt to improve the conditions of bone and high blood pressure. It may help reduce diarrhea caused by antibiotics in children and even help ease the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
2. Soft cheese and enriched milk
If yogurt does not work on you, you can take soft cheese, for example, Gouda, mozzarella, cheddar, and cottage cheese.
According to studies, probiotics bacteria in soft cheese can survive the stomach acid. Hence, they are better in bio availability.
Also, cheese is highly nutritious and it gives enough protein. It also provides important vitamins and minerals, including calcium, vitamin B12, phosphorus, and selenium.
Modest intake of fermented dairy products may even lower reduce the risk of heart disease and osteoporosis
It is a fermented probiotic milk drink, prepared by mixing kefir grains in cow’s or goat’s milk. Kefir is usually well tolerated by people those are lactose intolerant.
Kefir grains are not cereal grains and these look just like cauliflower. It is the cultures of lactic acid bacteria and yeast.
Kefir has following health benefits:
- Improves bone health
- Reduces digestive problems
- Protecting against infections
4. Traditional Buttermilk or Takra
The buttermilk is a range of fermented dairy drinks. There are two main types of buttermilk: traditional and cultured. Traditional buttermilk is obtained after extracting the butter from the fermented milk.
This has been going on since ancient times. It is called “grandma’s probiotic.” This buttermilk is generally consumed in India, Nepal, and Pakistan.
Cultured buttermilk usually does not have probiotics benefits and these are widely available in American supermarkets.
Buttermilk is highly beneficial as it is low in fat and calories and rich in important vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin B12, riboflavin, calcium, and phosphorus.
Here’s a recipe for Takra for you to try.
Takra | Lassi Recipe with Indian Spices
- Blender (Hand blender or food processor)
- ¼ cup Fresh curd Make sure that it is not too sour
- 1 cup Plain water
- 1 Sprig Curry Leaves optional
- ½ tsp Cumin Seeds Roasted and Ground (Make and store the powder in an airtight container)
- 1/2 tsp Mustard Seeds optional
- 1 pinch Asafetida optional
- ¼ tsp Sunth (Dry ginger powder)
- ½ tsp Black Pepper Powder
- ¼ tsp Rock Salt or Black Salt
- 1 sprig Mint Leaves or Coriander Leaves You can add both or one. This can be used for garnishing and for Pitta balance. Use this instead of seasoning with mustard seeds and curry leaves.
- Combine curd, water, ginger powder, rock salt, and cumin powder in a blender. Blend well and set aside.
- Add finely chopped mint leaves or coriander leaves. OR you can season the takra as directed below.
- For seasoning, heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.
- Add asafetida, mustard seeds and curry leaves. Let the seeds crackle.
- Add to butter milk and stir well.
5. Sauerkraut and Kimchi
Kimchi and sauerkraut contain three necessary probiotics and vitamins. The unpasteurized versions are more beneficial.
Pasteurization process destroys the probiotics. So, always take unpasteurized versions
6. Miso soup
You can prepare miso soup by fermenting soybean paste. It is both delicious and highly nutritious. It contains vitamins, antioxidants, more than 150 bacteria and is also low in calories.
Here’s a recipe of vegetarian Miso soup for you to try.
Vegan Miso Soup with Silken Tofu
- Heavy Bottom Pan
- 200 g Chinese Cabbage
- 4 tbsp Miso Soup Paste Organic and Low Sodium
- 200 g Silken Tofu
- 2 Medium Carrots
- 1 Medium Raidsh
- 2 cloves Garlic
- 1 inch Ginger
- 1 tbsp Soy Sauce Naturally Brewed
- 1 tsp Brown Sugar or Jaggery
- 1 tbsp Rice Vinegar
- 2 stalks Green onions
- 1 tbsp Pure Oil for cooking
- 2 cups Water
Preparing the vegetables
- Pound the ginger and garlic together. Keep aside.
- Cut the veggies into half inch sized cubes. Keep aside.
Preparing the Miso Soup
- Heat the pan and add oil.
- Now add the ginger garlic paste and mix till it turns golden brown.
- Now add the miso soup paste and mix well. Stir for few seconds.
- Now add cut veggies and rest of the ingredients except tofu. Mix well.
- Cover and put the heat on low. Let the veggies be cooked on low heat till they turn soft, which is about 10 mins.
- Now add the tofu and mix well without breaking the tofu.
- Close Heat and serve with rice or bread or have it as it is. Enjoy!
Tempeh is also a fermented soybean product. Its flavor is nutty and earthy, similar to mushrooms.
Tempeh is originally from Indonesia. It is high protein content and is popular all over the world.
The fermentation process of tempeh actually increases the number of minerals your body can absorb from it.
Fermentation also produces some vitamin B12, a nutrient that soybeans do not contain. Therefore, you can add it as a nutritious probiotic to your diet.
8. Naturally fermented sour pickles
Make pickles by adding salt. This promotes growth of probiotics. Avoid vinegar, as it prevents the growth of gut friendly bacteria in the pickle.
Kombucha is made by double fermentation process of sweetened tea mixture with yeast and bacteria. It is originally from China and made from tea leaves.
Kombucha is non-alcoholic in nature. Usually, sugar is added to Kombucha to improve its taste.
Kvass is a fermented drink from Slavic countries. Traditionally, it is made by fermenting fruit, berries or honey with herbs and spices, and also with rye bread.
The most popular version is made from rye bread or beetroot. It has a pleasant sour taste.
Kanjika is a fermented drink made from rice gruel.
In Ayurveda, it is considered to be highly beneficial for Vata Imbalance and to establish digestive fire.
It is a source of lactic acid bacteria and Vitamin B12.
A word of Caution with Probiotic Foods
All types of probiotic foods are not the same. Their healthful benefits are dependent on how they effect your gut microbiome.
The effect of probiotic foods also depends on the condition of your health:
- Probiotics have a good safety record when people are healthy. Sometimes, it shows side effects, like mild digestive symptoms such as gas.
- Alternatively, probiotics may cause severe side effects. It can cause dangerous infections in people with serious underlying health problems.
- If you are critically ill or having surgery or low immunization power, you should not consume probiotics or its supplements.
- Similarly, it may cause harm for very sick infants.