Not all bacteria is created equal!
Probiotics are live bacteria that help keep our digestive systems healthy. But how is bacteria, generally thought of as being bad for our health in fact healthy?
The human body is full of bacteria, both good and bad. While the wrong bacteria in the wrong place can cause problems, the right bacteria supports immune function, effective digestion and overall well-being. The root of the word probiotic comes from the Greek word pro, meaning “promoting,” and biotic, meaning “life.” Historically, we had an abundance of probiotics in our diet due to the fermentation process undergone to keep them from spoiling. Although we are now blessed with refrigerators, much of our food has come about through detrimental agricultural practices, and for those that eat meat and dairy it is also full of antibiotics – one of the main killers of the good bacteria in our bodies.
As well as antibiotics, probiotic killers can include tap water, sugar, GMO foods, some grains, stress as well as other chemicals and medications. Balancing the good and bad bacteria in our body is essential for good health.
Many people associate probiotics with the consumption of yogurt, as they were first discovered in the early 20th century when scientist Elie Metchnikoff made the link between the good health of poor rural farmers in Bulgaria and the consumption of sour milk. Luckily, for those on a plant based diet there are many alternative options.
Vegan Probiotic Sources
Nut milks have naturally occurring probiotics and many non-dairy yogurts have additional active cultures added to them.
Made by adding good bacteria and yeast to sugar and black or green tea and allowing it to ferment, Kombucha is a rich source of probiotics as well as antioxidants and amino acids.
Fermented cabbage is a potent probiotic source and is easy to make at home. When purchasing make sure it’s not the pasteurized version, as this process destroys the probiotics.
Miso is produced by fermenting soybeans and brown rice. There are over 160 strains of probiotics found in miso and it has multiple additional health benefits.
Indonesia’s own wonder food – tempeh is also made from fermented soybeans. It’s a great source of protein and vitamins as well as being delicious!
Pickled/Fermented Vegetables and fruit
Pickles, olives and Korean kimchi are all full of bacterial cultures and therefore contain many probiotics.