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14 of the best probiotic foods and supplements

14 of the best probiotic foods and supplements

Looking for a healthy dose of probiotics to perk you up? One of the best – and easiest – ways to top up on these beneficial bacteria is through your diet. Let’s tuck in, shall we?

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What are probiotics?

Probiotics is a term for a collection of live microorganisms that can have health benefits when we eat, drink, or apply them to our bodies.1

You will commonly find probiotics in fermented foods like yoghurt, dietary supplements and even cosmetic products.2

Some of the most common strains come from the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium family, but other types of bacteria may also be used as probiotics.

PS. Although bacteria and other live microorganisms often have a bad rep, many of these ‘germs’ are actually helpful. The microorganism we find in food are usually very similar to the one’s already naturally living in our body.3

What foods contain probiotics?

Most probiotics in food are created in the fermentation process. This is one of the oldest food-preservation techniques and is also why we still have beer and wine!

Foods and drinks go through a process called lactofermentation to become fermented. This is when natural bacteria feed on the starches and sugars in food to create lactic acid. This creates a perfect environment for preserving food and also promotes the production of various ‘good bacteria’ species, as well as B vitamins, enzymes, omega-3 fatty acids.

Most, not all, fermented foods contain probiotics. Some don’t as they go through processes that removes their probiotic powers like, baking, canning or the wine-making procedure.

9 of the best probiotic foods and drinks

Making sure you’re consuming healthy probiotics through your diet is quite easy when you know what the best sources are.

The majority of probiotic-rich foods are pretty healthy too, so you get more than one benefit from your munching!

Here are 9 of the best naturally probiotic-rich foods and drinks.

1. Yoghurt

Yoghurt is one of the best-known sources of probiotics, and for good reason!

It is made by fermenting milk with ‘good bacteria’ like bifidobacterial and lactic acid bacteria, giving it extra health benefits as well as the creamy taste and texture we love.

Research suggests that eating bacteria-rich yoghurt regularly could help with the following health issues.4

You may also like: Low cholesterol diet recipes: Fruit Salad with Fat-Free Greek Yoghurt

2. Kefir

Another fermented milk drink is Kefir, which is made by adding kefir grains to goat’s or cow’s milk.

Kefir grains are cultures of yeast and lactic acid bacteria.

It works in a similar way to yoghurt as a probiotic. However, it also comes with the added benefits of yeasts, organic acids, polysaccharides and various other metabolites.

For all you vegans out there: don’t worry! Soy-based and coconut kefirs are becoming more and more popular.

You may also like: What’s coconut kefir and what can I make with it?

3. Tempeh

Tempeh, a fermented soybean food, originates from Indonesia but has become popular worldwide, especially with vegetarians and vegans due to its unique taste and high protein.

To make tempeh, soybeans are soaked, cooked and inoculated with mould, usually from the Rhizopus family.5 This process increases its levels of vitamin B12 and lowers the levels of phytic acid normally found in soybeans, which makes iron and zinc easier to digest.

Studies have been conducted linking tempeh to gut health, but further research is needed to see if this could translate to humans.6

You may also like: The health benefits of eating tempeh

4. Miso

Miso is another fermented soybean creation, this time from Japan, and is used a seasoning.

It is commonly made by fermenting soybeans with a mould called koji and salt but can also be made by mixing soybeans with ingredients like rye, rice and barley.

Miso contains several species of Bacillus after fermentation.7 And a study found that some samples of miso contain Lactococcus.8

It is a good source of fibre, protein and other nutrients, with an intense taste. People usually use it to make a traditional Japanese dish called miso soup.

You may also like: Miso health benefits

5. Natto

Similar to miso, natto is another fermented soybean treat.

This one contains a strain of bacteria called Bacillus subtilis, and is also rich in the bacterias nattokinase and bacillopeptidase F. Nato can also help you get enough vitamin K.9

6. Sauerkraut

You may have already had some of this tangy goodness on a hot dog or served as a side dish! Sauerkraut is simply cabbage that has been finely shredded and fermented with lactic acid bacteria.

This traditional food is popular all over Europe, due to its nutritious and sour-salty taste.

Sauerkraut is low in calories, rich in fibre, and also contains B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin K, iron and manganese to complement its probiotic power.

P.S. You need to make sure your sauerkraut is unpasteurised to enjoy its probiotic goodness.

7. Kimchi

Similar to sauerkraut, kimchi is also fermented cabbage-based dish brimming with probiotic potential.

It can also be made with other vegetables as the main ingredient, but cabbage is the most popular. Garlic, red pepper powder, chilli, ginger, onion and salt get added to the mix to give a spicy kick to this popular Korean side dish.

Many Koreans serve kimchi with steamed rice at every meal due to its great taste and potential health benefits.

You may also like: Kimchi poke bowl recipe

8. Pickles

Pickles, aka. gherkins are cucumbers that have been preserved in water and salt.

When they are left to ferment, they release their own lactic acid bacteria, which is also what gives them their sour taste…

Don’t stop at cucumbers though. You can pickle lots of other foods and enjoy similar probiotic benefits, like onions, beetroot, celery, tomatoes, artichokes, peppers, chilli, garlic…. we could be here all day!

P.S. Make sure you choose pickles fermented in water, not vinegar, as this kind does not contain live probiotics

You may also like: What ingredients can you pickle?

9. Kombucha

Kombucha has really taken off in the last decade or so, for good reason!

This fermented tea has actually been consumed for thousands of years. You get all the usual health benefits of tea, as well as potential probiotic power from the fermentation process.

When the tea gets fermented, it produces acetic acid (which makes it carbonated) and sever species of lactic acid bacteria that have been seen to have probiotic benefits in other foods.10

The research looks promising, but more human studies into kombucha need to be conducted to conclude its probiotic benefits.11