There are a lot of foods that you can find at either your local grocery store or health food store that should be a staple of any probiotic diet. But it can be hard to get enough beneficial bacteria your system through food alone. Here are some of the foods that are rich in probiotics, and why you should also consider taking a supplement as part of your daily regimen.
There are trillions of bacteria that live in the gastrointestinal tract, or “gut.” While many of them are bad for us and cause a wide range of illnesses and conditions, there are also many good bacteria that perform vital roles. Their main function is to keep the number of bad bacteria in check, but they can also help us in other ways.
These beneficial bacteria and other microbes not only fight harmful bacteria, they also help in the digestive process and in boosting the immune system.1 While a lot of research has been conducted into the different ways good microbes can help us, scientists are just starting to scratch the surface of the many benefits they can provide.
How to Follow a Probiotic Diet Through Food
In order to make sure you have as many beneficial bacteria in your gut as possible, you should seriously consider adding these foods to your probiotic diet:
Yogurt – Just about any probiotic diet should contain yogurt, with is filled with beneficial bacteria. Talk to your doctor before making it a part of your dietary regimen, however, if you are lactose intolerant. Also, check the label carefully before buying yogurt. If it says, “Pasteurized,” then you probably won’t get many probiotic benefits. The reason is that pasteurization, while an important safeguard when it comes to the safety of our food, kills bacteria. Most yogurt brands contain 100 million beneficial bacteria per gram. The National Yogurt Association requires cultures to contain this much if the product features the seal “Live & Active Cultures” on the container. 2,3
Tempeh – This is a dish with a flavor somewhat comparable to nuts that is made from fermented soybeans. It’s not only a great source of probiotics, it’s also rich in protein and vital amino acids. You might have to find this one in a natural food store or health food store.
Kombucha – Another food that might not be available on the shelves of your local grocery store, kombucha is a form of tea. It’s usually black or green in color and has a distinctive, tangy flavor. You might be able to find it in a natural food store or a farmer’s market. Not only does it contain probiotic bacteria, it also has beneficial yeasts.
Kimchi – Kimchi is basically an Asian version of sauerkraut. It’s rich in probiotics, but it’s also spicy, so consider yourself warned.
Sauerkraut – Sauerkraut is rich in probiotics as well as prebiotic fibers. These fibers can’t be digested by the body, but they serve as a food source for beneficial bacteria. Sauerkraut also contains a great deal of vitamin C.
Miso – This is a popular Japanese soup that contains dried kelp as well as fish. Miso not only contains good bacteria, it also helps break down other food that may be in the intestines. If you are on a restricted diet, however, talk to your doctor before consuming miso. The reason is that it contains a lot of sodium.
Kefir – Kefir is an Eastern European drink that contains milk as well as kefir grains. It contains calcium as well as many strains of the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium families of beneficial bacteria.4 Kefir, which has been compared to liquid yogurt, also contains antioxidants. These are important, because they help preserve the health of cells by slowing damage that can occur over time.
What About Probiotic Supplements?
There’s really no definitive way of knowing exactly the amount of probiotics you need to get in your system through food. So if you’re thinking of following a probiotic diet, you might want to consider taking supplements as well. Just about all of the products you’ll find, whether you buy them in a store or online, will contain different types of beneficial bacteria. Most of them, for example, will have bacteria from both the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium families of probiotics.
There are so many products available, however, that you might find the number of options overwhelming. But if you look at the labels, you can narrow down your choices fairly quickly.
For example, make sure that the label includes information on the kinds of bacteria that are contained in the product. Again, any quality probiotic will contain Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium bacteria. If you don’t see those ingredients listed on the label, scratch that product off of your list immediately.
You also need to know how the products you are considering need to be stored. Many probiotics, for instance, need to be refrigerated in order for the bacteria inside of them to be able to stay alive. There are some products, however, that are freeze-dried. The bacteria inside of them are kept in a type of suspended animation, and they become active once you ingest them. As long as you store them in a cool, dry place, the bacteria should remain viable until the expiration date. Just make sure you keep the product out of direct sunlight and away from sources of heat.
Some people prefer buying probiotic supplements in powder form. If you do, make sure the label states how the product is to be used. If it doesn’t say the powder is heat-resistant, and you put it in a hot tea or a mug of hot water, that will kill the bacteria inside.
Whether you choose to follow a probiotic diet involving only food, or you choose to use a supplement as part of your daily regimen, probiotics could provide substantial benefits. Just make sure you’re healthy enough to take them. Probiotics, in some instances, have led to complications for people with compromised immune systems or those who have severe intestinal illnesses. If you’re generally in good health, you should be fine. There could be some minor side effects such as gas or bloating, but probiotics are considered safe for the vast majority of people who take them.