TOP PROBIOTIC FOODS
Sauerkraut and kimchi are both fermented cabbage products offering the healthy kind of bacteria or probiotics.
Sauerkraut is high in vitamin C and digestive enzymes. It is also a good source of natural lactic acid bacteria such as lactobacillus.
Kimchi is the Korean version of sauerkraut. It mixes Chinese cabbage with spices like red pepper flakes, radishes, carrots, garlic, ginger, onion, sea salt and fish sauce. The mixture is then left aside to ferment for 3-14 days.
Cheeses are created by fermentation. The process involves adding microbes to the starter product (a culture of lactic acid bacteria) and allowing it to ferment. If you buy pasteurised cheese, you will not be getting any of the probiotic benefits. Pregnant women, of course, need to avoid unpasteurised cheese.
Kefir or kephir (also known as milk kefir, or búlgaros) is a fermented milk drink made with kefir "grains" – a yeast/bacterial fermentation starter. It is usually prepared by inoculating cow’s, goat’s or sheep’s milk with kefir grains, but coconut kefir can also be made from coconut water or coconut milk.
The term kefir comes from the Turkish word keif meaning ‘good feeling’ and kefir has been consumed for over 3,000 years in Russia and Turkey. The yeasts in kefir break down lactose in the milk which is why kefir is suitable for those who are lactose intolerant.
Miso is a traditional Japanese food created by fermenting soybean, barley, or brown rice with the fungus ‘koji’. The fermentation process takes anywhere from a few days to a few years to complete. The result is a red or dark brown paste with a buttery texture.
Miso can be made into a soup, added to stews or the paste can even be spread on crackers.
Natto is another traditional Japanese (mostly breakfast) food and is another version of fermented soybean. Natto contains the probiotic Bacillus subtilis, which has been proven to boost your immune system. It is also a very good source of vitamin K2, which is important for heart health.
Natto also contains vitamin B12, which is often lacking in vegan diets and is a good source of plant protein at 18 grams per 100 grams. Well worth eating – but it is rather an acquired taste!
Another fermented soybean product, this time from Indonesia. It is in a cake form, and because it has a high protein content is often used a as meat substitute in a stir-fry. It has a nutty flavour and is often accompanied by miso or soy sauce.
Yoghurt would be expected to be at the top of a probiotic list – because the market is huge. The problem is the tremendous variation in quality. Read the labels carefully! Check particularly for live named cultures and no added sugar.