Two types of bacteria constantly live on and in our bodies: good bacteria and bad bacteria. Most of these bacteria reside within the gut. The human body needs good bacteria to keep the body healthy, well-balanced, and to function properly. Probiotics are made up of a combination of live, good bacterial, and/or yeasts that naturally occur in the human body. The good bacteria are needed to help fight off the bad bacteria when it is in excess in the body. This means that if I have good bacteria in my body it will allow for optimal body function which includes brain health. I want to make sure that my body has enough good bacteria, especially in my stomach, so what is the best probiotics for gut health? Let me share with you some natural probiotics that are beneficial for your gut health.
We need to have the right balance of gut bacteria because it assists with weight loss, enhanced immunity, healthier skin, improved digestion, waste management, enhanced nutrient absorption, and it also reduces the risk of many different diseases. This is where probiotics step in and help provide many health benefits when consumed. Probiotics can be taken as supplements, but I prefer to explore the natural options for the best probiotics for gut health. It must be noted that sufficient nutrient, vitamins, and minerals are of utmost importance. Without adequate amounts of essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals the formation of healthy gut bacteria will not take place and in turn does not allow the body to absorb and transport these essential nutrients. It is all about creating a good balance and adequate intake.
Probiotics can be found in certain whole foods. Probiotic-rich foods can deliver micronutrients that are essential for the daily functioning of the body. Plant compounds containing probiotics, protect the body from stress and oxidative damage. There are also many natural sources of fiber that act as prebiotics for the body. Fiber acts as the food that feeds the existing probiotics in the gut and helps them to function properly. What foods are probiotic-rich?
Fermenting food is one of the oldest techniques used for food preservation. When foods are fermented, they go through a process called lactofermentation. This is when natural bacteria feed on the starch and sugars found within the food, this creates lactic acid. An environment is created that preserves the food and beneficial enzymes are promoted, as well as B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and other species of good bacteria. An easy way to understand fermentation is that the process takes one type of food and converts it into another type. For example, soybeans turn into miso, and milk can be made into yogurt. Kimchi is an example of fermented food. Kimchi is a fermented, Korean food that contains lactic acid bacteria, Lactobacillus kimchi. It also contains other strains of lactic acid bacteria that are all beneficial to digestive health. Cabbage is key in Kimchi because cabbage is high in many vitamins and minerals, including iron, vitamin K, and vitamin B2.
Milk is a great medium to carry or to generate active and live-cultured dairy products. The protective capacity of milk helps to enhance the survival of the probiotic flora in the GI tract. Among all the fermented milk products that are available, yogurt is the most important for the delivery of probiotic bacteria. Yogurt is a cultured dairy product and it is considered one of the best sources of probiotics. Yogurt is made from milk that has been fermented by good bacteria, including bifidobacteria and lactic acid bacteria. Not all yogurt contains live probiotics, only yogurt that has active or live cultures contain live probiotics. The probiotics in some yogurts may have been destroyed during processing, it is for this reason that I pay special attention to the labels of the yogurt I purchase to ensure choosing a product that has probiotics. Lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacteria have been linked to many health benefits, including blood pressure control, and improved bone health.
Another fermented dairy drink that contains cultures of lactic acid is kefir. Kefir is a natural probiotic fermented milk. Kefir is made from kefir grains being added to cow’s or goat’s milk. It is known for improving digestive problems and for protecting against infections, making it a beneficial probiotic for gut health.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are needed daily by the human body because they contain many beneficial nutrients, such as antioxidants, dietary fibers, minerals, and vitamins. The technological advances of today have made alterations to certain structural characteristics of the fruit and vegetables I consume every day. The modification of the components of fruits and vegetables is done using controlled methods, such as PH modification, and fortification of culture media. This means that fruits and vegetables are now ideal substrates for the delivery of probiotic bacteria to the human body.
One of the most consumed and developed probiotic products of fruit and vegetables is fruit and vegetable juices. This non-dairy alternative contains a wide variety of probiotic strains, including species of bifidobacteria and lactobacillus. This has been most used in the development of many different fruit and vegetable probiotic products, especially in juices. The most common juices that have been developed include orange, cranberry, pineapple, cashew apple, tomato, beetroot, and carrot.
Cereals and Soya
Cereals are one of the most important sources of fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, and carbohydrates. Cereal grains can act as a prebiotic that stimulate the active growth of the probiotic bacteria strains of bifidobacteria and lactobacilli in the colon. Recent studies have shown the probiotic characteristics of the microorganisms that are involved in the fermentation of cereal foods. The studies that have been carried out to develop probiotic cereal foods mainly focus on beverages. The probiotic strains of bacteria, bifidobacteria, and lactobacilli, are complex microorganisms that have a high requirement of nutrients, such as B vitamins, nucleic acids, fermentable carbohydrates, and amino acids. Cereals are an excellent source of these nutrients and make them a suitable medium for probiotic bacteria growth. Fermented cereals have more available nutrients, making them more suitable for probiotic bacteria growth. Fermented cereals are considered an inexpensive way to achieve a rich substrate that is suitable for the growth of probiotic bacteria.
The composition and the structure of meat have shown that meat is an excellent carrier for probiotics. One of the most studied probiotic meat products is dry fermented sausages or meat (without heating). The characteristics of that type of meat product have made it an ideal food matrix for the delivery of probiotics to the human body. Because this type of meat has already been fermented, the addition of probiotics will not affect the sensorial characteristics of the meat, and since no heating will occur the probiotic bacteria will not be affected negatively.
Examples of fermented meat products include beef jerky, biltong and drywors (directly translated as “dry sausage”). Drywors is prepared from seasoned, raw meat that is encased and allowed to mature and ferment by LAB starter cultures. Meat has been found to have a protective effect on LAB cultures against the detrimental action of bile. Biltong is also prepared from seasoned, raw meat but it is also soaked in a salt-and-vinegar brine before being hung to air-dry. Beef jerky is prepared from dried meat too, but it is roasted or smoked for several hours, whereas biltong is not subjected to any cooking processes. This means that biltong is a better natural source of probiotics, in comparison to beef jerky. Regardless of their varied preparations, these fermented meat products are all excellent sources of iron, magnesium, potassium, and B-vitamins.
Make the right Choice
Many natural probiotics are excellent for gut health without having to defer to store-bought supplements, especially those found in fermented foods. Additional supplementation of nutrients, vitamins and minerals will increase one’s levels of total nutrient intake, but certain foods we consume may offer more distinct benefits regarding healthy natural probiotics our body needs. The probiotic-rich foods we consume will give our body micronutrients, plant compounds, and most importantly gut fiber. When choosing probiotic-rich foods, you need to consider which of them contain fiber or alternatively make sure you are incorporating fiber in your daily diet through supplementation. Fiber is a natural prebiotic assisting the maintenance of healthy probiotics in the gut. Although dairy is the most common source for fermented foods containing probiotics, several non-dairy alternatives will offer natural probiotics, especially if you are lactose intolerant.
With the array of natural food sources mentioned in this article, I am sure you will find some useful and incorporate them more often in your daily life.
Until next time