One of the most important factors essential for good health is a healthy gut microbiome, i.e. gut bacteria. This is mainly because both immunity and gut biome are linked. So, most cuisines across the globe include probiotic foods. For example, yogurt is a popular probiotic consumed by people in many parts of the world. But it is an animal-based food, and hence, not suitable for those following a strict plant-based diet like veganism. In this article, we will focus on different types of probiotic plant-based food; read on to know more about them.
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are useful gut bacteria that help to break down and digest food in the intestines, and thereby minimizes gas formation and bloating. Besides, they improve gut health and thereby aid in boosting immunity. Recent research has shown the link between the gut microbiome and their influence on mental health. This might be because they affect the production of important neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine.
The food compounds that help to maintain a healthy gut microbiome are prebiotics. They promote the growth of useful gut bacteria and complement probiotics. So, probiotics and prebiotics work synergistically to improve overall health. Because of this, it is important to consume a combination of prebiotic and probiotic foods at least in one meal.
There are many plant-based food preparations like sour and fermented items containing beneficial probiotic bacteria. Physicians and nutritionists recommend consuming natural sources of plant-based probiotics over probiotic supplements. Also, it is important to eat them raw, as cooking kills all the healthy bacteria. Shared below are some of the popular plant-based probiotic foods from different cuisines.
Sauerkraut is made by fermenting finely cut cabbage in brine, and it is a popular condiment used in Eastern European countries. The lactobacillus bacteria convert sugars in the cabbage into lactic acid, and this makes it crunchy and sour. It is nutritious because it contains probiotics, vitamins C and K, and potassium. You can make sauerkraut at home or buy readymade ones from the supermarket. It can be used in sandwiches, salads, or can be eaten alone. Also, ensure not to choose a pasteurized product as pasteurization kills useful probiotic bacteria.
Kimchi is a popular Korean dish made by fermenting cabbage, and it is a different variant of Sauerkraut as both are made by lacto-fermentation. Because of this, it is rich in probiotics, antioxidants, and vitamins. In the first stage, the cabbage is soaked in brine to kill unwanted and harmful bacteria so that only lactobacillus remains. In the second stage, the cabbage is thoroughly coated with the spicy marinade and is kept in a sealed airtight glass container to further ferment it. This converts all the sugars into lactic acid, and this gives it a sour and spicy taste. It can be eaten with fried rice, dumplings, summer rolls, etc.
Vegetables pickled in brine are probiotic-rich plant-based food that can be used as condiments for meals, in sandwiches, and salads. Also, they contain other minerals and vitamins depending on the choice of vegetable used. Some of the popular choices are cucumbers, radishes, carrots, bell peppers, cauliflower, and green beans.
Pickled vegetables have a sour taste and crunchy texture, and because of this, people consume them as snacks as well. To give them added flavor herbs and spices like garlic, black peppercorns, bay leaves, and coriander seeds are also added. Because they contain high amounts of sodium, they must be consumed in moderation to avoid health issues due to a high salt diet like water retention and high blood pressure.
Tempeh is one of the most popular soy-derived foods, and this is due to its high nutritional value. It is part of the Indonesian cuisine and is made by controlled fermentation of soybeans, making it a rich source of protein, probiotics, and vitamin C. Besides, it has a nutty flavor with a firm and chewy texture, and it is sold in the form of cakes.
Tempeh can be added into a wide variety of dishes like salads, can be stir-fried, used as sandwich filling, in plant-based burgers, etc. Because of its high protein content, tempeh is ideal for those who are working out. It is easily available from your local grocery store, or you can try making it at home. Furthermore, it has health benefits like reducing blood cholesterol, improving immunity, increasing bone density, and promotes muscle building.
Miso is fermented beans, and it is used as a base for soups and stir-fries in Japanese cuisine. The popular miso paste is made using grain and fermented soybeans, and this gives it a unique salty, flavor. It is rich in vitamins B, E, and K, proteins, antioxidants, folic acid, and probiotics. Besides, the fermentation makes it easier for the body to absorb nutrients contained in miso.
On a final note, there are other plant-based probiotic foods like kombucha, water kefir, and sourdough bread. Consuming them improves digestion, helps to manage diabetes and reduces the risk of metabolic diseases.