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Bodies are complicated things, and when one part of it is out of whack, it leaves you feeling less than your best in every other part of your life. When it comes to your stomach, the slightest discomfort or symptom can set your day off to a bad start. This can leave you feeling uncomfortable, unattractive, and basically as though you want to retire to your bed.
It stands to reason that if there is something out there you can do or take which will help your stomach to function healthily and properly, you should look into it at the very least.
Probiotics have been around the block for a while now, and whilst many health fads come and go, this subject has managed to gain momentum. Researchers are still on the fence as to the aextent of benefits which probiotics may bring, as well as whether there are any major side effects to be had. But with ongoing studies, more information is sure to come to the fore.
One thing that is for sure however, is that there are many foods which you can easily add to your diet, and gain probiotic benefit, without having to resort to a supplement. Most of these foods aren’t difficult to find in health stores or supermarkets, however some are a little obscure and may need specialist stores, e.g. Indian food stores.
Article at a glance
Main Types of Probiotics
Before we get onto talking about specific probiotic foods, we need to talk about the types of probiotics around. There are two main species, and within those species there are countless different strains. Some strains are better for certain issues and conditions than others, which is why it’s vital to be educated on which is best for you, to ensure you find the greatest benefit coming your way.
The two main species are bifidobacterium and lactobacillus. You may have already heard of these in passing.
Lactobacillus is probably one you’ve heard from from TV adverts and magazines, and this is certainly one of the most common around. You usually find lactobacillus in yogurts, and this particular species is ideal for helping with diarrhoea, overall gut health, as well as for anyone who has a problem digesting lactose.
Bifidobacterium on the other hand is found in many different foods, as well as some dairy products. Bifidobacterium strains are great for irritable bowel syndrome and its associated symptoms, as well as general gut health.
There are a few lesser known species, including saccharomyces boulardii, a yeast type of bacteria which is ideal for anyone suffering from diarrhoea problems.
When searching for good probiotics, it’s best to figure out the main benefit you want to have, and then do your research. For instance, there are some studies which have suggested a connection between probiotic use and brain function. A study conducted by UCLA discovered that consuming yogurt on a regular basis helped women improve their overall focus and brain function.
20 Probiotic Foods That Are Super Healthy
Good probiotics are first and foremost natural, and that means trying your best to get a good probiotic intake from your diet alone. If that doesn’t work, or you find it hard to incorporate the best probiotics foods into your diet, then you can look towards supplements. You won’t struggle to find probiotic supplements on the market these days, and these can be in the form of a yogurt probiotic drink, a capsule, or a tablet. It really depends on which is more convenient for you. Remember to heed advice on the label in terms of how often to take them and how to take them, as different products vary according to how they’re made, etc.
If you’re aiming for a predominantly natural route however, these 20 foods should be on your shopping list:
- Yogurt – Always go for yogurt which has the words ‘live’, and ‘active cultures’ on the label. This means they are probiotic. There are countless yogurts out there which aren’t as healthy as you would think, and they’re laden with sugars and colourings. You could opt for frozen yogurt too, if you prefer it, but again, check for the magic words on the labels. Greek yogurt isn’t the best for probiotic content, as its production method means that a lot of the probiotic content is lost by the time it reaches your mouth.
- Kefir – Without a doubt, kefir is one of the probiotic superfoods, and whilst yogurt is certainly easier to find, kefir has a greater probiotic content, provided you opt for the right type. Kefir is a milk drink, but it is fermented in yeasts and grains which are high in probiotic content themselves. This absorbs into the drink and maintains its content.
- Sauerkraut – This fermented, finely chopped cabbage is a common side dish around Europe, and is mostly served with sausage and other meat dishes. Sauerkraut is a fantastic dish for probiotic content, not only due to the fact that cabbage is super healthy overall, but the fermenting process is really what gives it the probiotic boost.
- Tempeh – Soy overall is a great source of probiotic content, but tempeh is particularly high and can be enjoyed in many different dishes and guises. Again, its down to the fermentation process.
- Kimchi – Kimchi originates from Korea and is a popular side dish, made of fermented vegetables, which are doused in spices to give it a good, hot kick! Very delicious and extremely high in probiotics.
- Miso – The Japanese miso soup isn’t just delicious, but it is very high in probiotic content. Miso itself is a fermented soybean, with a few other ingredients added in for good measure.
- Kombucha – Kombucha is regularly added to tea and brewed. There are studies which are currently being undertaken into the benefits of kombucha on its own, but it is a probiotic food you can add to your diet, although it is slightly alcoholic.
- Pickles – If you love pickles, you can easily grab some probiotic content from them. Remember to go for pickles and gherkins which are pickled in brine and not in vinegar, as the acidity of the vinegar will kill off a lot of the live bacteria that you need to grab the benefit from.
- Traditional buttermilk – Buttermilk is very easily available in supermarkets, but you need to look for the traditional type, commonly available in Asia, rather than the regular type. If you can find this type of buttermilk, the probiotic content is high, as well as being rather delicious.
- Certain types of cheese – In terms of good probiotics which are easy to incorporate into your diet, cheese is a great one. The bad news is that it’s not all types of cheese we’re talking about here, but Gouda, cheddar, cottage cheese, and mozzarella. The process of ageing the cheese kills off the good bacteria in many other types of cheese, but manages to survive in these four types.
- Natto – Natto is a Japanese dish which is made of fermented soybeans. The bacteria which the soybean is fermented in remains much of its power after the process, and is therefore a good probiotic source.
- Dark chocolate – Good news! Dark chocolate is high in antioxidants, but it is also a good source of probiotic content, when taken in moderation. When we talk about ‘moderation’, we do mean just a square, and not more than that, otherwise you’re going from a healthy food, to an unhealthy option.
- Apples – You know what they say about an apple a day, well it could be true in terms of probiotic content too. Further studies are going into just how beneficial apples are, but they do have a certain amount of benefit, as well as being very healthy overall.
- Microalgae – Microalgae is derived from plants grown in the sea, and there are certain types which are fantastic for probiotic benefit.
- Soy milk – A great option for vegans, soy milk is a very high in probiotic benefit food and one which you can add to many dishes in cooking, or drink alone. The calcium benefit is another plus point.
- Olives – Decorate your pizza with olives, as they actually have a good amount of natural probiotics within them!
- Sourdough bread – A distinct taste, but the fermentation process of ingredients and yeasts which go into sourdough bread make it a good option for those who love bread, but want to gain health benefits, rather than pounds.
- Acidophilus milk – A probiotic strain itself, acidophilus milk is a good option for those who struggle to tolerate other dairy products, and is also a good source of probiotic benefit.
- Dosa – If you love Indian cooking then you should try some dosa. This is a pancake made of fermented ingredients, and has a high probiotic content as a result.
- Dhokla – Finally, we have dhokla, another Indian dish. Dhokla is made of a fermented batter of chickpeas and rice, so as well as being probiotic, it’s also very healthy and filling.
These are 20 good probiotics to add to your diet. As you can see, many of them are easy to find and easy to add to your daily routine, but some are a little more difficult in that regard. If you do struggle to find any probiotics foods which you like, perhaps aside from the regular yogurts, then supplements are still a useful addition to your diet.
Probiotics For Overall Health and Digestion
The above foods we have just mentioned area ideal for overall health, as well as having a high probiotic content. Of course, you can take any amount of probiotics, but if your diet and lifestyle isn’t healthy overall, you’re not going to gain the right amount of benefit.
Probiotics should be taken as part of a balanced healthy diet, so this means:
- A diet packed with vitamins and minerals through plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables
- A limited amount of carbohydrates, to ensure good digestive mobility
- Organic food wherever possible, to limit the amount of pesticides, antibiotics, and other added extras within your food
- Alcohol socially, and to a limited amount
- No smoking
- An active lifestyle, with regular exercise
- A good amount of fibre in your diet, to aid probiotics in their work within the digestive system
All of this helps in general digestion, but also help to boost the work that probiotics do.
What About Probiotic Supplements?
Whether or not you manage to pack any of the above healthy, probiotic foods into your diet, you could also consider taking a supplement. We mentioned earlier that this can be a yogurt drink, tablet, or capsule, but it’s also the case that you need to read the label on whichever product you opt for.
There is no regulation of the probiotic world, and that means every product could be made differently, and every product has different instructions in terms of how to take it. Some will require an empty stomach, some might tell you to take them after meals, and some may tell you to take them in the morning. It completely depends on each individual product.
If you’re at all concerned about whether a probiotic supplement will suit your lifestyle, and which to go for, consult your doctor. There isn’t much evidence to suggest any major side effects of probiotics, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any. Everybody’s bacterial make up within their own body is different to anyone else’s, and that means you may react differently to a certain strain of probiotic. If you find one doesn’t suit you, stop taking it and seek out a different one, having sought out advice first.
It’s normal to experience perhaps some bloating or gas after taking probiotics for the first day or two, but this should certainly settle down within a few days. If it doesn’t, stop and seek out advice. Remember, one size doesn’t fit all, and when it comes to health and wellbeing, whether for your digestive system or any other part of your body, you need to find the right fit for your particular body.