It takes a certain sort of nutritionally interested person to consider where they are getting their probiotics, let alone know what it is probiotics are and do. Nonetheless, it is something we should pay attention to, especially over the holiday season with its rich and delicious food that can be hard to digest even for us vegans.
Probiotics are what is often referred to as “good bacteria,” most regularly attributed to yogurt. These good bacteria go by unfamiliar names like lactobacillus, one of the more infamous strains that has been the source of major vegan debate (which we won’t be getting into here).
Probiotics are something everyone should get a healthy dose of as it helps to clean some of the mess modern living has made of our insides.
Since vegans do not consume yogurt, milk, soft cheeses and kefir the array of probiotic rich foods may seem smaller. If you have ever wondered how to get a dose of healthy bacteria on a plant-based diet, here is a great list to point you in the right direction:
1. Live-cultured, non-dairy yogurt
While yogurt based on dairy is not an option, yogurt without animal products is becoming more readily available. Most common, according to the Global Healing Center, is coconut milk yogurt, which is healthier than soy-based yogurts, too.
It’s not just great with bratwurst. Sauerkraut is packed full of probiotics. However, note that pasteurization does kill off some of the good bacteria so it is recommended purchasing or making it unpasteurized to reap all the benefits.
The trendy drink that has become many vegans’ favorite thing to sip on is not only delicious and zingy, but also full of gut healthy bacteria. It is a bit on the expensive side as a regular purchase but it can be made at home for a fraction of the cost.
4. Pickled or fermented vegetables or fruit
Greens that have been soaked with bacterial cultures contain many probiotics, the Global Healing Center reports. While pickles are most popular, Korean kimchi is another option. Included in that list are olives, as their briny liquid promotes the survival of healthy bacteria.
Tofu is more widely used that tempeh, but that’s not to say it’s better, for your health or taste buds. Tempeh, an Indonesian dish of fermented soybeans, has a firmer texture than tofu as well as the probiotic benefits derived from the fermentation process. And, it’s getting easier and easier to find in stores and on restaurant menus.
6. Water Kefir
Like the source of kombucha, a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts makes up water kefir, which is also known as tibicos and Japanese water crystals.
7. Sourdough Bread
Whether hugging lunch’s soup or eaten bit by bit, sourdough bread contains probiotics edible for vegans.
Also full of antioxidants and B-vitamins, miso soup, the Japanese staple, is reported to have as many as 160 different bacteria strains, many of which will work wonders for the stomach.
9. Soy/Nut Milks
Hey, dairy milk isn’t the only probiotic milk out there, and just because lactobacilli begins “lacto” doesn’t mean it can’t be found elsewhere. Soy and nut milk already naturally have some probiotics, and new products are being made with active cultures added to them.
While a well-balanced diet should ensure individuals, including vegans, receive the vitamins, minerals, and probiotics they need, supplements can help provide probiotics to people who are not receiving enough.
Bonus: Ginger Beer
There are two forms of probiotic ginger beer. Both are rich in beneficial bacteria. Traditional ginger beer is cultured using a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts similar to water kefir grains, indeed, there’s some evidence that water kefir grains and the ginger beer plant are substantially the same in that both ginger beer plants and water kefir grains share many of the same characteristic bacteria. There is also a second, more accessible form, of ginger beer. Readers of Sally Fallon’s landmark book, Nourishing Traditions, will be familiar with this method of preparing ginger beer. In this version, powdered ginger and sugar mixed together to encourage the growth of wild bacteria and yeasts and this ginger bug is introduced into sugar water to and allowed to continue to brew.
Ginger beer, much like water kefir, offers a healthy, wholesome alternative to super-sweet sodas.
Properly prepared, ginger beer will even be naturally fizzy and is often loved by children most of all.