Probiotics or good bacteria have been part of our diet for thousands of years. They are defined as live microorganisms that have health benefits when consumed and they help to support balance in our gut.
Whilst we now have many good or friendly bacteria supplements available to us, traditionally these probiotics were sourced from foods, some of which still form a key part of traditional diets.
The following foods are those that contain the highest numbers of live good bacteria (probiotics):
- Yoghurt – live natural yoghurt is made by fermenting milk (dairy or non-dairy) with friendly bacteria, primarily lactic acid and bifidobacteria. (Always check the label of yoghurt for added sugar)
- Kefir – a fermented, slightly acidic tasting milk drink made by adding kefir grains to milk (cow, goat, sheep or coconut). Kefir grains are cultures of lactic acid bacteria and yeast and kefir contains more probiotics than yoghurt
- Kombucha – a drink made by fermenting sweetened black or green tea using a culture called a scoby (made of bacteria and yeast).
- Sauerkraut – finely shredded cabbage fermented in salt to produce lactic acid bacteria. It is traditionally eaten in northern European cultures.
- Kimchi – is a spicy Korean side dish made by fermenting cabbage with a range of spices, including chilli, garlic, ginger and salt.
- Pickles – pickled cucumber or gherkins that are fermented in salt and water use their own natural lactic acid to ferment and therefore produce lactic acid bacteria. (Vegetables pickled in vinegar do not contain live probiotics)
- Olives – stored in brine, olives will also ferment to produce lactic acid bacteria.
- Tempeh – a fermented soybean product often used as a meat substitute by vegans and vegetarians as it forms a firm shape and consistency.
- Miso – a paste made by fermenting soybeans with other ingredients, traditionally a type of fungus called koji. It is used in Japan to make miso soup and as a seasoning.
- Natto – another fermented soybean product that is used a lot in Japan and contains a bacteria strain called Bacillus subtilis.
- Some cheeses – those with live and active cultures where the good bacteria survive the ageing process, including cottage cheese, raw (unpasteurised) soft cheeses, cheddar and Gouda.