Probiotics have been a buzz word on the health block for quite some time now. We all know that they’re beneficial, and we know that you can buy supplements containing them, but do you actually know what probiotics are? And, perhaps more importantly, do you know the foods which will give you a good probiotic boost?
Not everyone wants to take supplements, and some people prefer to go down a more natural route towards overall health and wellbeing. That fine, and in the case of probiotics, there are many foods which contain a high amount of natural probiotics within them.
Before we begin, let’s quickly mention what probiotics are.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are live cultures of bacterias or yeasts, which are beneficial to our health. Within our bodies we have good bacteria and we have bad bacteria. It’s vital to keep a good balance between the two, otherwise illness and general lethargy can arrive on the scene. Probiotics are beneficial in many different health-related arenas, but mostly for the gut.
The good versus bad bacteria balance in the gut is perhaps more important than anywhere else. Probiotics also help with the general smooth running of the entire digestive system, whilst helping anyone who suffers from adverse symptoms on a regular basis, such as bloating, gas, constipation, etc. If you have a stomach-related condition, perhaps IBS, you will probably find great relief by using probiotics.
The 15 best probiotic foods
So, now you know what probiotics are, and you know that they are fantastic for overall gut health, what foods should you be eating to make sure you get a good amount of probiotics in your natural diet? There are certainly more than we can fit on this list, but there are 15 of the best foods rich in natural probiotics, to aid your overall gut health.
This is the number one food that everyone knows is ideal as a probiotic, and probably one of the easiest to find on a daily basis. Make sure you go for yogurts which state they contain ‘live cultures’, as these have the best probiotic content. You also get the fact that yogurt is a dairy product, so you have the benefits those types of food bring to the table also. Yogurt is very soothing to the stomach, and ideal if you have any kind of stomach upset also.
One of the other more widely known probiotic foods particularly great for your gut is sauerkraut. It doesn’t matter if it accompanies something sightly less healthy, e.g. a hot dog, because this fermented cabbage dish is ideal for giving you plenty of probiotic content. You’ll also be getting a good nutritional boost, as it is high in antioxidants and several other key vitamins.
You might not be that aware of kefir, but it’s quite similar to yogurt in many ways, although perhaps not as readily available in supermarkets. Kefir is a yogurt style drink which is made of Kefir grain and milk. Because the grain contains natural yeasts, it is ideal for your gut health, as well as being a good choice for anyone who has lactose intolerance.
A good starter to add to your takeaway menu, miso soup is packed with many different vitamins, including vitamin K, but is also a great probiotic food, with proven benefits for your gut health too. Miso itself is made of soybeans which have been fermented, and not only is it healthy, but quite tasty too.
If someone is always telling you not to eat pickles out of the jar, ignore them! Pickles are fantastic for probiotic boosting, and it’s all totally natural, thanks to the fermentation process which takes place. Go for non-vinegar pickles, as the vinegar does its job of killing of the live bacteria you need, but other than that, munch away to your heart’s content, either as a side to a meal or simply as a snack.
Avoid the types you find on the shelves, and instead go for the traditional type. This might be harder to find, but for probiotic content, it’s worth the search. Aside from being quite delicious, traditional buttermilk is high in natural probiotics, especially helpful for your gut. Traditional buttermilk is also healthier than it sounds, as it is naturally low in calories.
Certain Types of Cheese
If you’re a cheese lover, there is some good news – there are many types of cheeses which are high in probiotic content naturally, particularly ideal for your gut. However, this doesn’t include all types of cheeses, so you need to be cautious. Aside from the high calcium amount, the ageing process of certain cheeses maintains the live bacteria and gives you the benefit. The types to look out for include cheddar, cottage cheese, mozzarella, and gouda.
Whilst one apple alone isn’t going to do too much for your gut health, eating apples on a regular basis could. Regular consumption of apples allows healthy bacteria is multiple quickly, and this creates that harmonious balance in your gut, which ensures the bad bacteria doesn’t have chance to overrun. Of course, apples in general are quite healthy, especially as a snack, so there isn’t a real downside here.
There is a lot of debate around kombucha tea, mainly because it has a very small amount of alcohol within it. The amount is tiny however, and it is growing in popularity as a warm drink with major health benefits. Kombucha is fermented in healthy bacteria, and the process allows those bacteria to survive the entire process. Quite delicious in general, this is one drink you should give a try.
If you are lactose intolerant, you will know that any other type of milk is not great for your gut! Soy milk however is ideal for anyone with this condition, whilst also having the side effect of being fantastic for probiotic content naturally. As with yogurt, make sure that you are purchasing soy milk which states ‘live cultures’ on the label, to ensure a good probiotic amount.
Okay, so it doesn’t sound as though it’s going to taste great, but you’d actually be wrong in that assumption! Microalgae are types of plants which have come from the sea, with chlorella being one of the main options to try. Ideal for the gut, microalgae contain a naturally high probiotic content, and can easily be added to dishes, such as salads.
Good news! We know that dark chocolate has a lot of antioxidants within it, and can be used as part of a healthy diet, provided you consume in moderation. In addition to this, dark chocolate is also great for probiotic content too, giving your gut some protection, but also boosting immune system function at the same time. Remember to always go for the dark type and none of the other varieties.
Olive Oil And Olives
Very easy to eat and cook with olive products are high in natural probiotics and are fantastic for your overall gut health. The brine oil which olives are stored in help to maintain the natural good bacteria within the olive and also boosts its power and strength at the same time. Of course, always go for natural olive oil and not a type of product which has anything added in, to ensure you get the best probiotic content around.
Whether you want to make it yourself, or you buy it from a bakery, sourdough bread is high in natural probiotics and is also a very tasty snack at the same time! Of course, if you are gluten intolerant then you will already know about the benefits of sourdough bread, but even if you’ve never tried it before, it could be worth switching for the probiotic content and gut health protection it can give you.
Dosa is an Indian-derived dish which is very easy to find at Indian restaurants, or you can give it a go and try and make it yourself. Dosa is a fermented dish, so it does take some time to make but it is super-delicious and very nutritious. The dish is made of rice and lentils and it is also a very warming dish for the winter months.
Which is Best, Supplements or Natural Foods?
Now we have talked about 15 of the best foods for your gut in terms of probiotic content, we have to talk about whether it is best to get your daily amount of probiotic content from your foods or whether to go down the route of supplements. Basically, it’s a personal choice.
Some people will find it hard to get their full probiotic content from foods alone, and it could well be that you don’t actually like many of the foods we’ve just talked about.
Remember that we haven’t mentioned every single food which is ideal for your, but these are some of the best available.
It can also be difficult to get enough. Whilst there is no hard and fast dosage amount in terms of how much probiotic content you should be getting every day, you do need to eat more than just a mouthful.
Yogurt is therefore probably the best way to ensure you get some benefit, because it is such a versatile and easy to consume food, no matter where you are, or the time of day.
Supplements are big business however, and for many people this is the way to go.
Always remember to shop around when you’re looking for the best probiotic supplements for your particular needs.
There is no regulation in the supplement world and because probiotics are still somewhat of a mystery to scientists, there are still many studies going on. This means a set dosage isn’t in place, and it comes down to whatever it says on the label in terms of how to take the supplement and how often.
Always read reviews and always talk to your doctor ahead of time if you’re not sure. It’s best to go with supplements which are popular, mainstream, and have good reviews, over a product which is relatively unknown and cheaper. You don’t always get what you pay for, but in terms of reliability, this is often a good indicator too.
Here are some specific supplements that we recommend:
- Best probiotic supplements for men
- Best probiotic supplements for women
- Best probiotic supplements for weight loss
- Best vegan probiotics
- Best probiotic supplements for IBS
Which Strains of Probiotics Are Best For Gut Health?
There are countless strains of probiotics and it’s important to do a little research and speak to your doctor in order to find the best for your particular needs. If gut health is your issue, and we will assume that it is by the fact you’re reading this article, then the following strains are ideal for you:
This strain has the ability to quickly multiple the healthy bacteria in your gut. It is also quite resistant to stomach acids and heat. This strain has been shown to help strengthen the intestinal wall, as well as reduce stomach issues, such as bloating and gas.
This is naturally occurring probiotic but most humans have very little in supply. Taking a supplement can rectify that. Lactobacillus gasseri has been shown to support gut health and the digestive system in general, whilst also helping to fight stomach infections, especially H. Pylori infections.
This type of bacteria is found in the large intestine but the numbers naturally reduce as the ageing process begins. This type of probiotic helps to support the vitamins which are naturally produced in the gut and also supports general gut health.
The benefits of this type of probiotic are far reaching, including helping to reduce gut inflammation and helping to reduce gas at the same time.
It’s always a good idea to speak to your doctor before you start taking any type of supplement, probiotics included. There are very few side effects known, but there is also very little in terms of conclusive study results too. A quick chat should be enough to give you the information and reassurance you need.
Writer, Product Tester.
Adele is a budding content writer with a passion for all things health and fitness related. In her time off Adele enjoys reading, travelling and exploring Sydney’s culinary delights.