Coexisting with bacteria is not something us humans are proud of. However, when it comes to regulating the digestive system, fighting chronic diseases and preventing us from becoming predisposed to allergies, I am a proud advocate for some of these organisms. The food you eat plays an important role in coexisting with the friendly bacteria around you, and this is where probiotics come in.
What Are Probiotics?
Nobel Prize recipient Eli Metchnikoff is often accredited with introducing the concept of probiotics. It is said that in 1907 he suggested that humans should attempt to modify the microbial flora in our intestines to replace the harmful microbes by useful microbes. Probiotics refer to living microorganisms such as yeast and bacteria that when consumed in the correct proportion, offers different health benefits.
Sources of Probiotics
There are a wide variety of sources of probiotics for us to consume. In fact, many of us are already benefitting from these products without being aware of it. However, if you wish to consciously improve and increase your intake of probiotics, then here is a list of foods for you to try. They have been grouped based on ingredients, but each is indeed unique in flavor. You may just find that some of these become a regular part of your diet.
Tempeh and Miso
Tempeh is essentially a soybean patty made from natural culturing and controlled fermentation. It contains a large quantity of fiber, compounds that are thought to provide cardiovascular benefits as well as stomach-healthy probiotics.You can use it to top your salad, mix it into your favorite stir-fry or just simply have it as a side dish to your meal. Tempeh is low in sodium, thus making it suitable for persons with hypertension.
Miso also contains soybeans, and is made from fermenting the beans with salt and a fungus. Some varieties of miso also include fermentedrye, beans, rice or barley. Traditional Japanese medicine and cooking make use of miso as a digestive regulator.
Pickles and Olives
Both of these options contain copious amounts of probiotics because the brine allows the microbes to flourish. If they are on your shopping list, it is best to seek out organic varieties. You may, however choose to make your own at home so as to eliminate the additives that would take away from the health benefits.
Sauerkraut and Kimchi
For both of these cabbage is the wonder ingredient. Cabbage is nutrient rich and the fermented cabbage in both sauerkraut and kimchi is full of probiotics to help your digestive bacteria remain balanced. So go ahead and top your next hot dog with some sauerkraut or feel free to load on the kimchi as a side dish to your chicken. Your body will thank you for the probiotics, vitamins and minerals they contain.
Ginger Beer and Kombucha
Ginger beer makes this list because of the fermentation process it undergoes. It contains less than 0.5% alcohol and is consequently considered to be non-alcoholic. However, it does contain probiotics which are good for you. You can enjoy an ice cold, fizzy ginger beer at any point in your day and reap the probiotic benefits it contains.
Naturally effervescent Kombucha is a fermented tea rich in probiotics as a result of the fermentation process that produces it. Kombucha improves the health of your digestive system by increasing the amount of beneficial bacteria in your gut. It comes in a variety of flavors and like ginger beer, is best had chilled.
Yogurt, Kefir, Milk, Fermented Cheese and Soy Milk
This group is made up of milk based probiotic options. Live-cultured yogurt is perhaps the most well known probiotic food. Check for labels that say “live and active cultures” and list natural ingredients instead of sugars, syrups and artificial flavors.
Kefir is a cross between yogurt and milk and is a mouth-watering way to add probiotics and vitamins to your diet. Persons who shy away from dairy products, because they tend to offset sinus and digestive problems, may find this fermented milk creation a great alternative. The milk proteins in Kefir are already partially broken down during the fermentation process. As a result they are more readily absorbed by the digestive system.
When it comes to cheeses, a chunk of Gouda, cheddar, or Swiss cheese is a healthy choice. This is so because they are made with lactic acid bacteria. The probiotic content may vary from sample to sample, but it’s certainly worth adding any of these cheeses to your diet.
There is a new trend of adding probiotics to milk. While the healthy benefits of probiotics and calcium rich milk are not to be disputed, there are some issues to consider. It has been suggested that that probiotic milk may adversely affect children and the elderly. Such problems include bloating and gas. It is best advised that you check with your doctor before using these products.
Another product is soy milk. Soy is a natural when it comes to probiotic benefits, and some new soy milk products on the market have added extra live cultures. This should be clearly stated on the label, so check it before you buy.
Microalgae take in various ocean-based plants such as spirulina, chorella, and blue-green algae. It makes a delicious treat when added to juices such as smoothies. Considered to be a ‘super food’, microalgae are loaded with probiotics to enhance your intestinal health.
I think we saved the best for last. Dark chocolate that contains at least 70% cacao is a tasty, naturally fermented source of probiotics. Processing and heating destroys the chocolate’s nutritional value, so search for raw, organic types instead. These will ensure that you get maximum benefits as you savor each bite.
Eating probiotic foods is safe for the most part and with limited side effects. People around the world have been consuming probiotic foods for centuries to obtain a healthier and stronger body. However, probiotic foods can be harmful to individuals with a weak immune system if not eaten in the correct proportion.
Medical research has revealed that patients with pancreatitis had a greater chance of succumbing to their illness after eating foods rich in probiotics. Therefore, if you fall into this category it is in your best interest that you consult with a doctor about eating probiotic rich foods.
Whether it is a piece of dark chocolate a day of a simply probiotic rich yogurt, if it will make you healthier, keep it up. Listen to your body and engage in healthy eating habits that will help you to live a longer life.