10 Best Probiotic Foods and How They Affect Your Gut Health
Medically Reviewed by Sindhu Vas – Post Graduate in Nutrition and Food science
According to studies our gut health is important for our overall well-being. The gut is our gastrointestinal tract which is made up of a whole host of microbes that keeps our body and brain functioning in an optimal manner. The gut microbes determine the way we store fat, how our body balances levels of glucose in the blood, and how we respond to certain hormones that determine whether you feel hungry or satiated.
Researchers have also discovered that a nervous system in our gut termed as our “second brain” communicates with the brain in our head. It also plays a role in controlling certain diseases and in maintaining mental health.
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts. These live bacteria are beneficial for the digestive system. These are not germs that cause diseases. Our body contains bacteria, both good and bad. Probiotics are “good” bacteria that are helpful to keep our gut healthy. There are several probiotic foods available in India.
Prebiotics are found in certain fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, fermented foods and in the form of supplements too. The most important source of prebiotic is fibre.
Here is a list of 10 best probiotic foods that keep our gut healthy
1] Pickles: Uniquely Sour Vegetables
Pickles that are made from vegetables like cucumber contain a good amount of antioxidants, good bacteria and probiotics. However, not all pickled foods go through fermentation or contain good bacteria.
It is recommended to buy pickles of fresh varieties that are sold in stores and not the ones that are sold in shelf-stable bottles. The fresh varieties have higher nutrient content in them.
Broccoli and other vegetables in the cruciferous family are in the list of probiotic food in India as they are rich in fibre. So it is recommended that you include cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, Kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage regularly to your diet. You may eat the vegetables in different forms like stir-fried, roasted, steamed or raw with salads.
You can have asparagus steamed, sautéed, roasted, or raw in salads. You can also add lightly steamed and chopped asparagus to Quinoa or brown rice and have it as a full meal.
Radish is very good food for gut health. It is rich in fibre and contains a special compound called RsPHGPx which helps clean our stomach and liver with its detoxifying properties.
You may eat radish in several ways such as soups, chutneys, stuffed parathas, curry, dry vegetable, and also by adding it to salads and raitas.
It is rightly called a ‘powerhouse’ seed because it contains a very high amount of a type of antioxidant called Lignans. Lignans contain the highest amount of anti-cancer properties among all other foods used for human consumption.
Flaxseed contains soluble fibre. These fibre greatly improve digestive regularity. You can add ground flaxseed to your smoothies or salads. However, you must choose freshly ground flaxseed because whole flax seeds are hard to digest.
Bananas are heavy in potassium and magnesium. Due to its rich content in potassium and magnesium, it aids against inflammation.
According to studies, bananas help reduce bloating. It can also support weight loss weight because it tends to make feel full easily and therefore controls our appetite. Bananas are one of the most easily available probiotic food in India. It is a good option to eat it as a mid-day snack instead of eating unhealthy junk food.
Like Bananas you can eat apples as a snack and it is an easily available probiotic food. Stewed apples are particularly beneficial for your microbiome, as they have healing properties for the gut.
Garlic used for the purpose of adding flavours to food is extremely beneficial for the gut.
Kimchi is fermented cabbage. It is made using several different spices and ingredients. Common ingredients include salt, chilli powder, onion, garlic, and ginger.
It is sometimes made with a fish stock base, but it’s easy to find a plant-based version is more common and available in stores.
It is the most common and popular probiotic food. Yoghurt is made from the milk of grass-fed animals and which hasn’t been pasteurized.
For the best results make sure you get yoghurts with the following features:
- It is made out of goat’s or sheep’s milk
- The animals are grass-fed
- The milk is organic
Q. What exactly is the difference between probiotic and prebiotic?
Probiotics are live beneficial bacteria that are naturally created by the process of fermentation in certain foods like yoghurt, kimchi, broccoli etc. Probiotic supplements are available in pill form. It is also found as an additional ingredient in products like yoghurt and health drinks.
Prebiotics are that part of certain foods that are non-digestible. Some of these foods are onions, garlic, Jerusalem artichoke, bananas, the skin of some fruits like apples, chicory root, beans, and many others.
The fibre in the food enters the small intestine in undigested form when consumed. It is fermented when it reaches the large colon. The fermentation process gives food to the beneficial bacteria colonies (this includes probiotic bacteria).
This leads to an increase in the number of desirable bacteria in our gut. Desirable bacteria aid good health and decreased health risks.
Though similar sounding, probiotics and prebiotics have different roles in the digestive system (or gut) and must not be confused to be same.
Q. Is it recommended to take a probiotic and prebiotic at the same time?
Prebiotics and probiotics must be taken regularly. In fact, both can be taken at the same time, daily.
Q. Does probiotics help relieve constipation?
A number of studies have established that probiotics can reduce constipation in both adults and children.
Those who consumed probiotics also experienced less belching, abdominal fullness and bloating. The main probiotics that improve constipation include B. longum and S. cerevisiae.
A combination of probiotics is also effective. The probiotics that are combined include B. animals, L. reuteri, acidophilus, L. Plantarum, L. rhamnosus etc.
To summarise, here are some of the food high in Probiotics list:
- Fibre- This includes whole grains, beans and different kinds of legumes, whole fruits, and veggies.
- Fermented food items- Kimchi, Pickles, Yogurt
- Roughage: Jerusalem artichoke, flaxseed etc
- Flavouring additives: garlic, gum Arab etc