Probiotic Foods: What Are They And Why Are They Good For You?
12 January 2021
What the average human living in western society can eat now as part of their diet is dramatically different to what we could eat a hundred years ago. Heck, it’s dramatically different to what people were eating twenty years ago! But, whilst the variety of what we consume daily has increased, so too, has the pitfalls and problems with what we eat. It isn’t just people getting fatter from eating more fatty foods, as our bodies have always been home to less friendly bacteria that want to make us more fat. But now more than ever, a lot of the foods we can eat are helping to increase the build-up and strength of fat-building bacteria and causing us all kinds of issues as a result. The main area of concern is from consuming non-naturally occurring foods which don’t contain the pro-biotics some scientists say, we need to balance out our diet.
The difference between prebiotics and probioticsLet us recap very quickly on probiotics and prebiotics. When we ingest fermented foods and break them down for digestion, they release nourishment for what are believed to be friendly bacteria into our bodies that help aid with digestion. The bacteria are known as probiotics, as they are believed to be beneficial to our health and digestion although, scientists have not yet completely determined how. Prebiotics are a class of dietary fibre that functions as a sort of food for probiotics, one we get from eating naturally fermented foods that also typically contain higher concentrations of fibre.
What are probiotics foods?As we just mentioned, probiotic foods are typically thought to be fermented. But that doesn’t mean that all fermented foods contain probiotics. Foods that ferment more naturally are thought to contain more probiotics than the ones we might ferment. It is a case of having the right components in place in the right food, at the right time. Beer, as an example, has been fermented by humans for thousands of years. Despite the brewing process has evolved dramatically in that time, it hasn’t been possible to create probiotic bacteria in beer, even though bacteria do appear as part of the process.
Probiotics for weight lossRecent studies conducted on the proposed impact of probiotics in our bodies have indicated that consuming more probiotic foods may be beneficial for weight loss. It has been proposed that probiotic bacteria help create a more stable environment for our guts and that increasing our intake of fermented, probiotic-rich-food can help reduce our weight.
Do probiotics provide benefits for the immune system?As we have established, a lot of the concepts surrounding the benefits of probiotics hinge largely, on the role of healthy bacteria in our guts.
Typically, bacteria are often viewed quite negatively in our day-to-day lives but, certain types of bacteria carry healthy properties.These types of bacteria can hold benefits for our immune system and fortunately, some of the types we do know work well with our immune system can be found in probiotic foods. Take miso as an example. Fermenting soybeans with salt and a special fungus that we know as koji is the key to making this delicious Japanese delicacy and the results of doing so, are very beneficial. Whilst not only being high in protein, miso also contains all 9 amino acids, which of course, happen to be quite handy for digestion. But fungus and bacteria like Miso also helps build up your immune system thanks to the other properties found in healthy bacteria just like it. Additionally, its thought that healthy bacteria like Miso also helps with building resistance to and avoiding multiple types of cancer.
Should you take probiotics supplements?The main issue with probiotics is as we said before, much of the science behind them is still not concrete, yet. Probiotics as such are classed as foods, not medicine, so the regulation of probiotic supplements is quite loose. If you decide to use probiotic supplements for any reason, whether that be dietary or, personal preference, you must make sure you pay close attention to the contents of each supplement and make sure you know what probiotics you are ingesting. The presence, or lack of, certain probiotics in what supplements you ingest could cause issues for your diet and immune system depending on how long you continue to take them. If you’re not aware of what you’re taking, then it is advisable to not take probiotics supplements for the previously mentioned reasons. Instead, focus on eating as many probiotic foods as you can manage in your diet and stick instead, to the tried and tested products that have been available to us for years!
Which probiotics are the best?There are over 500 different strains of bacteria contained within your average colon. Certain probiotics amongst those have been identified as particularly effective. Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus and Saccharomyces, are amongst the most recommended probiotics, although some strains may be more effective at combatting certain conditions than others. But where can you find these types of probiotics? If you want to avoid taking direct supplements then you might want to focus on eating a certain selection of foods.
The best probiotic foods
- Yogurt: yogurt and probiotic yogurt, are linked to several health benefits. High quantities of Bifidobacterium, as well as lactic acid bacteria, may well hold the key to helping combat and prevent conditions like IBS and improve the health of our bones.
- Sauerkraut: This German delicacy is not for everyone but as a word to the wise, if it is for you, make sure you’re using the unpasteurized version as otherwise, it will contain none of the live and active bacteria you should be using it for!
- Kimchi: whilst we are on the subject of cabbage, although this Korean delicacy can be made from other vegetables, the spicy little dish contains high quantities of lactic acid and bacteria. It’s also rich in minerals, multiple vitamins and, Iron.
- Miso: we have to include our favourite soup-come-paste on this list. As we mentioned earlier, the koji fungus it contains has some wonderous properties and the benefits apply however you wish to consume it!
- Pickles: now before you get carried away please note, pickles kept in vinegar will not, contain the same probiotics as those that don’t. Although they are low in calories and quite high in vitamin K, they do contain large amounts of sodium, so go easy on them!
- Gouda, Mozzarella, Cheddar and Cottage Cheese: certain types of cheese survive the ageing process and still cling on to their healthy bacteria. Cheese is highly nutritious, as well as being a great source of protein. Speculation that consuming moderate amounts of cheese could even help lower, chances of heart conditions and diseases.
- Kefir: a fermented and incredibly probiotic-rich type of cow or, goat’s milk, combined with kefir grains. Kefir is believed by many to be an even better alternative to yoghurt, as it arguably, contains more probiotic bacteria.
- Green Olives: as a word from the wise, make sure you check where your olives are being bought before you get carried away. Most olives are treated with lye, which does not allow the bacteria you want for probiotics to survive. Ideal for getting more Lactobacillus into your diet.
- Tempeh: often dubbed “vegan bacon”, this fermented soy product has a maty taste and texture, contains similar benefits from probiotics bacteria like Miso, as well as being rich in protein and nutrients.