Lately, digestive health has been all the rage. And rightly so! The bacteria is your gut is vital in maintaining a healthy immune system, as well as converting fiber into fuel for your body. In this article, we will be discussing the 6 best probiotic foods for vegans that will help you improve your digestion and gut health.
I don’t remember the first time I heard the word “probiotic”. Growing up, I knew yogurt was healthy for you, but I had absolutely no clue why. I just knew it was delicious and creamy and went great with a scoop of crunchy granola.
I later learned that probiotics are microorganisms, typically bacteria, that improve the microbial balance in your gut. This means that they help balance out the “bad” bacteria. Who knew bacteria could be so good for you?
Now, I try to include probiotic rich foods into my diet every day. Not only do I love these foods, but their benefits on the digestive system are so wonderful that I could not pass them up!
Types of Probiotics
Though we typically lump all probiotics into one category, there are a variety of species. These include Saccharomyces boulardii yeast, and Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species.
Saccharomyces boulardii is a great probiotic since it is a yeast. It isn’t killed by antibiotics, which kill bacteria species. It may be a good choice while on antibiotics or afterwards.
You can find Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species in supplements and a variety of probiotic foods, which we will go over!
It is important to note that though different benefits have been observed with various strains of probiotics, there still needs to be more research on this topic. Because of this, I recommend getting probiotics from food sources to ensure you are reaping the benefits of a variety of probiotic strains.
The Importances of Probiotic Foods for Vegans
Probiotics have many roles in the body that keep your digestion running optimally. One of their most important roles is their conversion of fiber to short chain fatty acids, which can be used as fuel for the body.
Fiber is indigestible by our digestive system. So by the time it reaches the colon from the small intestine, it is undigested. But, don’t worry! Probiotics that live in the colon love fiber. By bacterial fermentation, these healthy bacteria convert it into short chain fatty acids, which are a type of saturated fat. Our body can use these fatty acids as fuel.
Despite saturated fats being viewed as a “bad” fat, these short chain fatty acids provide health benefits. These include regulation of pH, increased absorption of minerals, and anti-inflammatory activity. They also provide energy for the cells in your colon. Overall, these little fatty acids are one of the reasons that probiotics are so important!
Along with the production of short chain fatty acids, probiotics also help balance the “good” vs. “bad” bacteria in the gut. They can help inhibit the bacteria that can be harmful to us. Think of them as little superheroes, forcing out the “bad” guys!
Foods Rich in Probiotics
Okay, now what you’ve all been waiting for! What are some probiotic rich foods for vegans?
Kimchi is a Korean fermented cabbage dish. Though I don’t eat kimchi very often, it is a great option if you do a lot of Korean cooking or just love eating it by itself!
Kimchi may be very difficult to find unless you have a health foods or Asian food store near you. But, good news! Kimchi is very shelf stable, so you can order it online. Try out one of these brands:
Kombucha is fermented tea and great probiotic food for vegans. Over the past few years, kombucha has become very popular, popping up at grocery stores all over the US. But, did you know that you can make kombucha at home?
All you need is a “SCOBY” or “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast”, a wide mouth mason jar, napkins or cloth, and rubber bands. Here is a great how-to guide!
But, of course, you can buy it in it’s ready-made form (which is what I do). Here are some of my favorites:
Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage, used often in German cooking. I’ll be honest, my favorite way to eat sauerkraut is on top of a hot dog (no shame). Try to look for sauerkraut made in the traditional way (no vinegar). Here are some of my favorite brands:
Miso is a fermented soybean-based paste, commonly used in Asian cooking. I had miso soup often growing up! My relatives in California would send my family miso paste (there are far more traditional asian foods available on the west coast).
You would simply mix the miso paste with hot water and voila! You got a delicious, savory soup. Here are some great miso pastes and instant soups to use:
You are probably familiar with pickles. And yes, they are a great probiotic food for vegans! But, only some forms. Try finding pickles that are made the traditional way, which is richer in probiotics. Here are some of my favorites:
Yes, that’s right! Sourdough is a probiotic rich food. It’s tangy, sour flavor is somehow delicious. I love it for my sandwiches, french toast, and toast! Overall, it’s a great source of carbohydrates.
You can also make sourdough at home if you have sourdough starter! Here is a great how to guide.
But, like kombucha, I prefer to buy sourdough! Try out this one:
Final Thoughts on Probiotic Foods for Vegans
Probiotic foods are not only delicious, they have so many important functions in our digestion! They help fight off “bad” bacteria and produce short chain fatty acids when provided with fiber and prebiotics.
The health benefits that have been observed with probiotics make it clear why traditional cultures love probiotic rich foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi!
So, next time you are at the sandwich shop, consider getting sourdough. Not only will your gut thank you, your tastebuds will as well!
As always, thank you so much for reaching this article and I hope you learned more about probiotics. Comment below or contact me directly if you have any questions or comments. Thank you!