These Are Some Of The Best Probiotic Foods
Gut health is important for your overall health and wellbeing, and including probiotics foods in your diet is a big part of this!
What are probiotics?
In order for your gastrointestinal (GI) tract to function effectively and to help you feel your best, your gut biome needs to contain a combination of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria — probiotics being a form of good bacteria. If an imbalance of bacteria exists, you may not feel your best and your body may offer a variety of signs indicating that your gut health is out of balance.
The gut microbiome is an ecosystem of organisms in our gut. Specifically, probiotics refer to live microorganisms (also known as live cultures) that are believed to improve your gut health, when they exist in adequate amounts. There are hundreds of species of ‘good’ bacteria that exist and which can potentially contribute to a healthy gut biome. This is because the good bacteria helps to balance the bad bacteria and creates an environment where your body may absorb nutrients more effectively, which can then help improve your overall health.
Benefits of probiotics
While the health benefits of probiotics are undergoing continuous research and are still not fully understood, potential benefits of including probiotic foods in your diet may include:
- Probiotics may improve digestive function and absorption of nutrients and food.
- Probiotics may create more balanced conditions of 'good' and 'bad' bacteria within the gut biome.
- Probiotics may improve immune function.
Sources of probiotics
Probiotics can come in the form of supplements or certain foods. While probiotic supplements can be purchased to help with gut health, the long-term effects of taking these supplements is still unknown. Some studies have suggested some people may be better suited to choosing food-based probiotics, rather than supplementation, and focusing on whole foods means you will be getting a wider range of nutrients too.
Probiotic supplements can impact people in different ways, so it's always best to consult your healthcare provider before taking any supplements.
If you want to try and improve your gut flora naturally, you can increase your intake of probiotics by eating a variety of probiotic-rich foods instead. In doing this, you will also gain the benefits of the vitamins and minerals that exist within the food that you are consuming!
Probiotic food sources
Fermented foods are considered the best food-based probiotics and they're really easy to incorporate into your daily diet. Fermentation is a process where food is prepared in a specific way which involves breaking down the carbohydrates (such as sugar) in the food through bacteria and yeast. Through this metabolic process, various strains of probiotics are then created — the healthy live cultures that are good for your gut health. These live cultures enhance and change the flavour of the food, as well as help to preserve it for longer.
Some of the most popular probiotic-rich natural foods include:
Live-cultured yoghurt is an excellent natural source of probiotics for women. Just be mindful when you read the label to make sure that your yoghurt contains the ingredient ‘live active cultures’. This is because some yoghurts can be heat-treated after fermentation, which means that the beneficial live cultures are killed off. Try to choose a yoghurt that has minimal sugars or additives too.
Kombucha has become popular in recent years, but what exactly is it? Kombucha is a type of fermented tea drink and its health benefits lie in the high amount of healthy gut bacteria it contains. When drunk, it can often taste similar to a soda drink and it comes in many different flavours. Due to its popularity, most grocery food stores now sell it, as well as health food stores. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can try to make your own at home too!
The term Sauerkraut is German and refers to fermented cabbage – it is one of the oldest forms of preserving cabbage. You probably are most familiar with sauerkraut in German cuisine, like as a topping for German hot dogs! If you choose to purchase it, rather than make it yourself, be sure to purchase the unpasteurised kind, as quite often supermarket sauerkraut is pasteurised and this kills off the good probiotics that your body benefits from.
Kimchi is an Asian form of pickled vegetables — like sauerkraut, it’s also a fermented cabbage. However, kimchi is spicy! If you like spicy foods, kimchi is a great source of natural probiotics — and can be easy to make at home too.
It is important to remember that even if you include a variety of natural probiotics into your diet, if you regularly consume unhealthy food that is high in saturated fat, sugar and processed carbohydrates, your gut is less likely to be able to develop and sustain good bacteria. In order to reap the benefits of probiotic-rich foods, you need to maintain a diet rich in prebiotics — the dietary fibre compound found in plant-based foods like fruit and vegetables. Prebiotic foods that are consumed act as a foundation for the good bacteria to grow in your gut. This is why it’s important to ensure that you include a combination of both probiotic AND prebiotic foods in your diet to help your gut flourish!
Probiotics for women
Just remember, if you are thinking of increasing your probiotic intake or changing your diet significantly, it is best to seek the advice of your healthcare practitioner. Every individual is different — in fact, a healthy balance of bacteria in one person will look totally different to a healthy system of another. If you listen to your body, you will eventually learn what works best for you — whether that be to consume natural probiotic-rich food, like the ones mentioned above, or a probiotic supplement for women.
Have you ever try making your own fermented foods, or do you have a favourite probiotic food? Let us know in the comments!
* Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. Sweat assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.