The specific strains of yeast and live bacteria that are effective for the human digestive system are called Probiotics. These microorganisms usually present in our digestive system Natural probiotic food products and supplements have become very common these days, to help with a host of digestive problems. They are either present naturally in some foods, or are added.
Probiotics help the digestion process. These organisms also take an active role in reducing inflammation in the digestive tract. By increasing the overall digestive efficiency in the human body, probiotics promote better health, a better heart condition, and reduce depression. Several pieces of evidence also prove that these probiotics help to maintain a great skin condition.
There are mainly three types of probiotics usually found in human food:
- Lactobacillus – The most common probiotic, it is an effective ingredient to cure diarrhea. Besides, it is also great for people suffering from lactose indigestion.
- Bifidobacterium – It is extremely beneficial to ease irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
- Saccharomyces boulardii – A strain of yeast, it is helpful in indigestion problems and reduction of uneasiness from diarrhea.
Natural Probiotic Food Items
Though there are now many probiotic supplements available on the market, although it is great if you consume natural foods that contain these ‘good’ bacteria. And to help you, here are the best probiotic items that you shouldn’t skip.
Yogurt, a staple food in many cultures, is not just high in protein; it also contains vital minerals and vitamins. Besides, it is the best available source of probiotics. Consuming yogurt daily can improve the overall health condition by maintaining the whole digestive procedure. It is made by fermenting milk with live and friendly bacteria. These microorganisms improve health and maintain the efficiency of the digestive system. Moreover, these bacteria actively convert lactose, i.e. the sugary part of milk, into lactic acid.
The two main strains of bacteria found in yogurt – bifidobacteria and lactic acid bacteria – have many health benefits. They are helpful for people with high blood pressure. Besides, they improve bone health. Probiotic yogurt can also relieve the uneasiness and symptoms of IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). It can cure diarrhea in children, caused by strong antibiotics. Probiotic yogurt is also a great substitute of milk for people with lactose intolerance. But not all the yogurt variants contain probiotic; so, read the label before buying.
Buttermilk is actually the leftover after churning out butter from whole milk; however, the term ‘buttermilk’ may refer to a wide variety of fermented milk-based drinks. It is slightly sour in taste, but has great health benefits. There are many two types of buttermilk available – traditional and cultured. Only the traditional buttermilk, often referred to as “grandma’s probiotic”, can be counted in this category of probiotic food products. While a cup of whole milk contains 8.9 grams of fat and 157 calories, buttermilk has just 2.2 grams of fat and around 99 calories. Besides being low in fat and calorie count, buttermilk also contains calcium, phosphorus, riboflavin, and vitamin B12.
While taking antibiotics, most of the good bacteria that are present in a healthy digestive tract are lost. And, buttermilk can effectively help to build the active cultures in the system. These live organisms do not just help the digestion process; they also fight digestion problems. Besides, buttermilk is also helpful in easing the symptoms of Crohn’s disease. The cultured buttermilk that is found in the supermarkets of America does not contain probiotics. So, you need to specifically buy the traditional buttermilk to get the desired benefits.
Although all cheese types are made by fermenting processes, not all of them have probiotics present in them. But, there are many kinds of cheese, like mozzarella, cheddar, Gouda, and cottage cheese, which contain active cultures. However, you need to find out the probiotic content by reading the food label before buying. Cheddar cheese has the goodness of the probiotics as it goes through a prolonged fermentation time of around two years. And, for that, cheddar offers almost the same probiotic benefits as yogurt. It also has reduced chances of acidity, unlike in the case of consuming a good amount of yogurt each day.
The texture and fat content of cheddar also safeguard the good bacteria while passing through the GI tract. Cheese is not only a great source of protein but also extremely rich in essential vitamins and minerals such as calcium, selenium, phosphorus, and vitamin B12. It improves overall bone and heart health. You can also lower the risk of osteoporosis and heart disease by moderately consuming cheese daily. Besides, you will also get all the benefits of consuming whole milk without any of the digestion problem and lactose allergy.
Pickles or gherkins are made by storing cucumbers in a solution of salt and water for a prolonged period of time. The cucumbers are left in the solution to start the fermentation process using the lactic acid bacteria naturally present in them. Besides fermenting, this process also makes cucumber sour in taste. Pickles have extremely low calorie content and are a great source of vitamin K, a must-have nutrient that regulates blood clotting. Besides, pickles are completely free of any fat. It is also a great source of probiotics and is quite beneficial in improving overall digestive health.
Some types of packaged pickles often have vinegar, but it doesn’t have any probiotic benefit. So, you need to choose the pickles that contain only natural ingredients, and hence, active cultures. According to a 2010 study, pickles restore the electrolyte balance and eliminate the chances of muscle cramps. Besides, it also contains antioxidants that are great for the skin. However, pickles are extremely high in sodium; so, only moderate consumption is advised. You should avoid pickles if you already have high blood pressure or any other cardiovascular condition.
Kimchi is a spicy Korean delicacy which is typically made by fermenting cabbage, although it can also be made using other vegetables like radishes. To make Kimchi, chopped cabbage is first mixed with ginger, garlic, scallion, chili flakes, and salt and then kept in a tightly closed jar to let the mixture ferment for some time. It is consumed with rice or noodles, as a condiment, or even as an ingredient in cooking a dish. It contains good live culture called ‘Lactobacillus kimchi’ that has great digestive benefits. It helps to cure any infection in the human body.
Besides being extremely tasty, Kimchi is also rich in vital minerals and vitamins such as iron, vitamin B2, and vitamin K. It also contains bio-chemicals like sulfide and isocyanate that effectively detoxify the heavy metals in our kidney, liver, and small intestine. These biochemicals are also beneficial for the prevention of any chance of stomach cancer. Kimchi is extremely low in calories and aids carbohydrate metabolism.
Kombucha, a type of fermented green tea, is consumed in many parts all over the world, especially in Asian countries. It is typically produced by fermenting green or black tea with a friendly colony of yeast and bacteria. These live cultures fight harmful bacteria in the human body and eliminate the chances of various diseases. Besides, Kombucha contains antioxidants that are great for skin and internal organs such as liver and kidney. The probiotics in Kombucha not only assure improved digestion and reduced gastrointestinal inflammation but also aid weight loss.
Kombucha also controls the digestion rate of carbohydrates to further reduces the sugar level in blood. And, in turn, it further improved the overall function of the kidney and liver. Due to the high concentration of antioxidants and tea polyphenols, Kombucha also prevents the spreading and growth of cancerous cells. However, it should be moderately consumed, as homemade Kombucha contains around 3% alcohol.
Miso, a tasty seasoning, is consumed all over the world, especially in Japan. The Miso soup made with this salty ingredient is the most popular breakfast in Japan. It is made by mixing salt in soybeans and then fermenting the mix with a fungus known as Koji. Many other ingredients like rice, barley, and rye are also mixed in. Besides being a great source of fiber and protein, Miso is also rich in vital nutrients and minerals such as copper, manganese, vitamin K, and different plant compounds. It also contains vitamin B, vitamin E, and folic acid.
Miso is extremely rich in enzymes as it is produced by a long fermentation process. It can lower the risk of breast cancer in middle-aged women, according to a recent study. Women consuming Miso soup also has a lower percentage of stroke and other cardiovascular diseases. However, Miso has very high salt contains and you should not consume more than 6 grams in a day.
The word ‘Kefir’ is derived from a Turkish word, ‘keyif’ that literally means ‘feeling good’. Although it looks like cereal grains, Kefir grains are actually live cultures of yeast and lactic acid bacteria that often look like cauliflower. Kefir is made by fermenting cow or goat milk with Kefir grains. The live cultures present in the Kefir grains ferment the sugary part of the whole milk and turn it into traditional Kefir drink. This traditional drink is not only a good source of healthy fats but also of vitamin K and calcium.
It is one of the most potent probiotics available on this planet. A particular strain of bacteria called ‘Lactobacillus kefiri’ is found in this drink, which eliminates the chance of growth of any harmful bacteria during the fermentation process. Besides, it also effectively fights off bacteria like E. coli, Helicobacter pylori, and Salmonella. It is also great for people with lactose intolerance in getting all the goodness of whole milk.
Sauerkraut is typically made by fermenting finely chopped cabbage with lactic acid bacteria. It is quite similar to Kimchi and is traditionally consumed in several countries all over Europe. This salty traditional delicacy is mainly consumed as a side dish and on top of homemade sausages. It can be easily stored for months in airtight jars. A typical serving of Sauerkraut contains around 28 distinct strains of bacteria that are great for the human digestive system. Besides probiotic goodness, it is also rich in vital nutrients like vitamin B, vitamin C, and vitamin K. It also contains iron, manganese, and sodium.
Sauerkraut contains several types of antioxidants and lutein, which are great for the eyes. You can also control your weight by regularly consuming it in moderate amounts. It also eliminates the chances of anxiety and depression. Besides, it helps control the symptoms of OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) and autism. Sauerkraut also improves memory. However, you need to choose the unpasteurized versions of Sauerkraut to get the benefits.
A traditional delicacy of Indonesia, Tempeh has gathered global popularity as a high-protein substitute of meat. It is made by fermenting soybeans and then pressing the fermented paste into a compact cake. It has an earthy flavor and tastes almost like mushrooms. A cup of Tempeh contains around 31 grams of protein, making it an extremely healthy alternative of meat for vegetarians. It contains a moderate amount of phytic acid that aids the absorption of iron and zinc in the human body. Besides, it has several other vital nutrients and minerals.
Tempeh helps to form short-chain fatty acids in our colon. These, in turn, increase butyrate, the main source of energy in the colon cells. It also contains soy isoflavones that are great for controlling the cholesterol levels in the body. Although soybeans do not contain vitamin B12, the fermentation process produces a good amount of it in Tempeh.
Side Effects of Probiotic Food
Although probiotic food does not have proven side effects, you can sometimes have nausea, bloating, and intestinal gas-related effects. This can be effectively eliminated by lowering the dose. You can prevent it by introducing new probiotics in the diet very slowly.
How to recognize probiotic food items?
While most foods mention ‘probiotics’ in the label, many manufacturers also mention these microorganisms as ‘active culture’ or ‘live culture’ in the food label. If the food label of any fermented product mentions ‘probiotics’, it simply means that the bacteria or yeast are still present in a living condition in the food. Besides consuming natural products with live cultures, you can also try probiotic supplements.
While most of the fermented foods contain probiotics, it does not mean that all the products of that category will surely contain them. For instance, not all the yogurt variants contain probiotics, but those with active cultures have it mentioned prominently on the food labels. Several probiotic food items may have added sugar, so you should read the label carefully before consuming. It is strongly advised that you only choose those probiotics that have very low artificial flavorings and added sugar content.