Probiotics are healthy bacteria that are part of our body’s natural “microflora”. They play an important role in our gut health and overall wellbeing, with research indicating probiotics can help with everything from indigestion and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) to food intolerances, allergies, and even anxiety or depression.
While there are a growing number of probiotic supplements on the market, many people prefer to get the benefits of these good bacteria from more natural sources.
So to help you figure out how to include more probiotics in your diet, we have created list of the top natural sources of probiotics (listed in alphabetical order) – and there are so many good ones we’ve decided to write it in two parts!
As Australian company Myrtleford Butter Factory explains, true buttermilk is a “luscious dense liquid” left over from churning and culturing butter, and the live cultures added to create it make this dairy drink a rich source of probiotics.
But Myrtleford Butter factory also warns that not all buttermilk you buy is created equal, saying: “The buttermilk you find on supermarket shelves is not buttermilk at all, it is a cultured skim milk product.” So make sure you check the ingredients and look for live cultures such as Lactobacillus acidophilus before buying it for its health benefits.
Cheese is produced through a fermentation process, and some varieties are a rich source of probiotics as a result. The probiotic content of cheese ultimately depends on how it is processed and varies significantly between different types of cheeses, but generally cultured cottage cheese, feta and raw cheeses will contain some probiotics.
Whether it is milk-based, plant-based or water-based, kefir is a rich source of probiotics – and in many cases could have even more probiotics than popular probiotic foods such as yoghurt. Kefir is made through a fermentation process, and the starter cultures used for it also influence the particular strains of probiotics that you will get when you drink it (but really they’re all good).
It’s relatively easy to start making your own kefir, but if you want to try it first then look for a good organic option in a health food store near you.
Originally from Korea, this spicy fermented cabbage dish is packed full of flavour and probiotics. It’s also becoming more and more popular with foodies around the world, showing up on restaurant menus and supermarket shelves.
Like many other pickled vegetables, it’s simple and affordable to start making kimchi at home, with the added benefit that you can make it as mild or spicy as you like.
Kombucha is getting a lot of attention at the moment, as a growing number of people discover the benefits of this traditional fermented tea drink. As well as being a natural source of probiotics, research has linked kombucha to a wide range of health benefits, including reducing joint rheumatism, gout and haemorrhoids, regulating cholesterol levels, aiding in toxin excretion and blood cleansing, and reducing nervousness.
Some health food stores sell bottled kombucha, but it is usually made at home using a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria And Yeast). If you decide to start making kombucha, it’s important to ensure you get a healthy SCOBY to ensure the brew is going to be good for you.
This traditional Eastern European fermented drink was originally made from rye or barley, and often flavoured with fruits such as strawberries and raisins, or herbs like mint.
These days, kvass is also commonly made with beetroot, and is known for its blood and liver cleansing properties. It typically uses lactobacilli probiotics, and has a mild, sour taste that can vary depending on what’s added to it.
These are the first six top natural sources of probiotics we look at – stay turned for the second part of this article to see how many other great options there are for adding probiotics to your diet without ever needing to buy a supplement.
Kvass image credit: Mr.Icon via Wikimedia Commons.