What are Probiotics?
The "good bacteria" present in gut benefits digestive health by stimulating the digestive enzymes and ensure its proper functioning. It maintains overall health of the body and also strengthens the immune system. Probiotics are found in natural foods as well as in the form of supplements. Diet must be incorporated with probiotic foods and many naturally enriched foods do the work most efficiently.
Types of Probiotics
Probiotics present in the body:
Bacteria like Lactobacillus, Bifidobacteria, Enterococcus faecium are present inside the stomach and colon.
Probiotics in foods:
Saccharomyces boulardii are the only type of yeast probiotic. Streptococcus thermophilus and Leuconostoc are found in many foods. Foods like yogurt, pickles, kimchi, sauerkraut, etc. are rich in probiotics.
Many supplements contain specific strain of probiotic in capsule, tablet, liquid or powdered forms.
Benefits of Probiotics
Reduces inflammation and infections caused by microorganisms in the digestive tract
Replenishes and restores the body's 'good bacteria', which may be lost due to antibiotic intake or infections
Cure many stomach-related conditions like irritable bowls, ulceration, infectious diarrhea, acidity and spasms
Reduces the probability of bladder and colorectal cancer
Helpful in asthma, joint stiffness, urinary tract and vaginal infections, lactose intolerance and other medical conditions
Yogurt is enriched with probiotic strains like Lactobacillus and bifidobacteria. Homemade yogurt is good for gut health and naturally rich in live bacterial cultures. Packed yogurts also come in different flavors. Yogurt is preferred for maintaining overall digestive health. It also contains vitamins and other nutrients that benefit in many ways.
Dark chocolate is a rich source of probiotics, up to four times as in any other dairy product. Dark chocolate also contains a high amount of antioxidants. It maintains a healthy gut, controls free radical cell damage and prevents oxidation of cells. No worries now for those chocolate cravings!
Soy milk naturally made by pressed soy beans contains live and active bacteria. It is loaded with many nutrients, proteins and probiotics. It is a perfect substitute of milk for those having lactose intolerance as it is lactose free. Many companies have come up with packaged soy milk containing active probiotics.
Easily prepared at home, pickles made from fermented fruits and vegetables contain high amount of probiotics and natural enzymes. These probiotics and enzymes help in proper digestion and keep the gut healthy. Pickles are tasty, easy to make and good for health.
Sauerkraut and Kimchi
Sauerkraut is one of richest non-dairy probiotic food. Prepared from fermented cabbage and vegetables, it contains many vitamins. Lactobaciili plantarum present in it boosts the immune system and reduce the growth of bad yeast.
Kimchi, a similar Korean dish, is also made from fermented pickled cabbage. Sour and spicy kimchi is laden with many vitamins and minerals like beta-carotene, vitamin A, C, B1, calcium and iron that fights infections and improve digestion.
An ancient probiotic drink made from fermenting the black tea leaves with yeast and bacterial culture called Kombucha mushrooms. This tea is a refreshing, healthy and energy providing drink. It boosts immune system, helps in losing weight and maintains overall gut health.
Chlorella, spirulina and blue-green algae are oceanic plants that are rich in probiotics and minerals. They are known to enhance the growth of good bacteria in the stomach and digestive tract and it is also a rich source of energy.
Tempeh is prepared from soy. It is rich in vitamin B12 and probiotic content. Low sodium content makes it a good choice for people preferring a low sodium diet. It can be substituted for meat and tofu and can be added in various preparations.
South Indian Cuisine
South Indian foods like idly, dosa and other fermented foods are high in probiotic content. They are low in fats, light and healthy in nature containing live cultures of good bacteria.
Cheese is made from fermenting milk at different temperatures and conditions. Different types of cheese are available in markets which are rich in probiotics and fats. Apart from many other health benefits cheese preserves and improves the good bacteria in the digestive system.
Tips for Probiotic Consumption
Naturally existing probiotics are always better than supplements, you should be careful while selecting the right strain. One must always consult a doctor before starting any probiotic supplementation. It should be taken gradually in diet. Although claimed as safe, sometimes consuming a large amount of probiotics might cause allergic reactions, indigestion and bloating. Homemade and natural probiotics must be included in the regular diet to keep your gut healthy and fit.