Best Natural Probiotic Foods
Consuming foods with natural probiotics can increase the number of good bacteria in the body. Fermented foods, such as yogurt, kombucha and miso, are a good source, as they contain a large amount of these bacteria. In this article we explain which are the best natural probiotics and how to prepare them.
“Natural probiotic Food are an essential ally for gut health and overall wellness. Natural probiotics help us reduce inflammatory processes and improve overall gut health”
Top 11 Natural Probiotic Foods
Natural probiotics are becoming increasingly important for maintaining optimal health and wellness. They are an essential part of our diet and provide essential nutrients. However, with all the options available, it can be difficult to decide which natural probiotics you should choose. In this article, we’re going to talk about the best natural probiotics, their benefits and why they might be the ideal choice for you. Invest in your health and be sure to incorporate natural probiotics into your daily nutrition plan!
These are the Best Natural Probiotics
Yogurt: the great classic of Probiotic Foods
Yogurt is one of the most popular sources of probiotic foods due to its large amount of live microorganisms, especially lactobacilli and bifidobacteria.
Fermented foods such as yogurt are made by the action of bacteria, which convert sugars into lactic acid, thus creating an acidic environment that prevents the growth of pathogenic microorganisms.
Properties of yoghurt for intestinal and general health
Yogurt contains a wide variety of probiotics that can help improve intestinal health.
These beneficial microorganisms help balance the intestinal flora and combat the overgrowth of harmful bacteria, helping to prevent gastrointestinal infections and improve nutrient absorption.
In addition, yogurt is rich in vitamins, minerals and proteins from milk and can help regulate intestinal transit and improve digestion.
Types of yogurt and how to choose the best
Yogurt as such, according to current regulations in some countries in Europe, consists of milk that has been fermented exclusively by the microorganisms Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus.
In the supermarket, in addition to yogurt, we can find other milks fermented by other types of microorganisms and that are similar to yogurt but, according to Spanish law, they are not. On the label of these other fermented milks they usually indicate “with probiotics” or “with live cultures” or “Bifidus”, but never “yogurt”.
Whatever the type of fermented milk, yogurt or not, it is advisable to choose products with no added sugar, as they contain fewer additives and preservatives and thus do not contribute to increased sugar intake.
Benefits of probiotic yogurts
Yogurt provides great benefits to the body:
Being a dairy product, it provides calcium and vitamins such as Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) and Cyanocobalamin (Vitamin B12). It provides minerals such as Magnesium, Phosphorus and Potassium with a positive influence on blood pressure. There are studies that suggest a positive impact on blood pressure (1).
Yogurt has a high protein content, thus impacting on a greater feeling of satiety, helping us to maintain weight control (2).
Yogurt can be consumed by people with lactose intolerance, since during fermentation, it is precisely this sugar that is transformed into lactic acid, giving yogurt its characteristic flavor and minimizing the original lactose level in the milk
- Choose natural yogurts with no added sugar
- Read labels to check the type of fermented milk, whether it is yogurt or not.
- Choose yogurts fortified with vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, minerals and vitamins.
Kéfir: the fermented beverage with multiple benefits
Kefir is another of the best known fermented products. Its origin dates back to the Caucasian area and thousands of years ago.
It is a dairy product, similar to yogurt, although somewhat more liquid and tastes a little more sour. It is also obtained by fermentation of cow’s, goat’s or sheep’s milk, but in this case using kefir grains, a culture similar in appearance to cauliflower formed by a mixture of yeasts and bacteria which, in a symbiotic way, are responsible for carrying out the fermentation process.
Kefir has a different fermentation process than yogurt, since it is carried out by other different bacterial species and also involves yeast. This difference means that the fermentation process is not only lactic, there is also an alcoholic fermentation, so that the kefir obtained has a small proportion of ethanol, less than 1%.
Benefits of Kefir.
As for the beneficial properties of kefir, there are numerous studies that claim it has antimicrobial, antitumor, immunomodulatory properties and, like yogurt, it also aids lactose digestion in lactose intolerant people(3).
With its content in probiotic microorganisms, it contributes to improve our intestinal microbiota, repopulating the species that for some reason (e.g. antibiotic treatment) have been reduced.
Kefir consumption increases the presence of lactobacilli in the intestinal mucosa, reducing the presence of enterobacteria and Clostridium (4).
How to make Kefir at home
It is usually prepared at home, in an artisanal way, by adding milk to a quantity of kefir grains and leaving the mixture at room temperature.
- In a clean glass container, place the kefir grains and add milk or sweetened water.
- It is covered with a breathable cloth and left to ferment at room temperature for 24 to 48 hours. The duration of the process will depend on the temperature of the room, so that the warmer it is, the faster the fermentation process will be.
- After this period, the beverage is strained through a plastic or metal strainer.
- The resulting drink, kefir milk, is stored in airtight bottles or containers and kept cold in the refrigerator.
- The extracted kefir grains can be used to ferment more milk. These grains, which in each fermentation process usually grow by about 5 %, can be obtained from friends or acquaintances, as they are always “overproduced” due to the growth they experience after each fermentation process.
Kombucha: the fermented beverage of Chinese origin
Kombucha is a fermented beverage of Chinese origin that has gained popularity in recent years due to its multiple health benefits. It is an ancient formula of Chinese origin, dating back to approximately 200 B.C., although it was later used as a medicine in Japan, Russia and Eastern Europe.
This drink is a fermented tea prepared from black or green tea to which I have added sugar and a SCOBY, a gelatinous mixture containing the microorganisms (bacteria and fungi) that will carry out the fermentation process by consuming all the sugar we have added and converting it into acetic acid, ethanol and CO2.
SCOBY, an acronym for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast, contains a combination of microorganisms that act symbiotically and grow by consuming the sugar added to the tea. As a result, at the end of the process a new “scoby” (the son) will have been created that can be used in future fermentations. The SCOBY contains bacteria of the genera Acetobacter, Gluconobacter and yeasts of the genera Saccharomyces and Zygosaccharomyces among others.
The SCOBY contains the microorganisms that will carry out the fermentation process.
Once fermented, the resulting beverage contains a mixture of organic acids (acetic, gluconic, lactic), amino acids, vitamins B and C, some ethanol (less than 1%), minerals (copper, iron, manganese, zinc)(5).
The end result is a carbonated, slightly acidic beverage with a unique flavor.
Benefits of kombucha tea
As for the benefits of kombucha tea, although its benefits have been passed down from generation to generation for thousands of years, the reality is that to date there are no scientific studies conducted in humans on its benefits. In vitro and animal studies have associated Kombucha tea with health benefits including antimicrobial properties, gastrointestinal and hepatic functions, stimulation of the immune system, antioxidant, detoxification, etc.
However, kombucha tea is now considered a “healthy” beverage and a source of pharmacologically active molecules due to its antioxidant components and potential health-promoting properties(6).
How to make Kombucha at home
- Gather the necessary ingredients and equipment: you will need a mother colony of kombucha (SCOBY), black or green tea (preferably unflavored), sugar, filtered water, a large glass jar, cotton cloth or kitchen towel, a rubber band and glass bottles for bottling the fermented tea.
- Clean all equipment: be sure to wash the glass jar and bottles thoroughly with hot soapy water to remove any residue or unwanted bacteria.
- Boil the water: bring enough filtered water to a boil to prepare the tea. The amount of water needed will depend on the recipe and the size of the pitcher you are using.
- Prepare the tea: add the tea bags or loose tea leaves in the glass pitcher. Pour the hot water over the tea and let it steep for a few minutes to infuse.
- Sweeten the tea: after the tea has infused, add the sugar and stir well until completely dissolved. The amount of sugar varies according to your personal preference, but usually about 1 tablespoon of sugar per liter of water is used.
- Cool the tea: let the sweetened tea cool completely to room temperature. Do not add the kombucha mother cologne while the tea is hot, as this may damage it.
- Once the tea is completely cold, add the kombucha mother cologne. To do this, carefully place the SCOBY in the glass jar. Be sure to handle it with clean hands.
- Cover the jar: place a cotton cloth or kitchen towel over the opening of the jar and secure it with a rubber band. This will allow the tea to breathe while fermenting, but will prevent insects or dust from entering.
- Ferment the tea: keep the jar in a dark and warm place (approximately 20°C to 30°C) for 7 to 14 days. During this time, the SCOBY will ferment the tea and a new mother colony will form on top.
- Taste the kombucha: after a few days, you can taste the kombucha to determine if it has reached the desired flavor. If it is too sweet, let it ferment longer. If it tastes right for you, continue to the next step.
- Bottle the kombucha: carefully remove the SCOBY from the jar and place it on a clean plate. Then pour the fermented kombucha into glass bottles and seal tightly.
- Second fermentation (optional): if you want a carbonated kombucha, you can perform a second fermentation. This is done by leaving the bottles closed at room temperature for an additional 1 to 3 days. This will allow carbon dioxide to form and generate carbonation.
- Refrigerate and enjoy: once the kombucha has reached the desired level of carbonation, place the bottles in the refrigerator to stop fermentation. When it is cold, it is ready to be enjoyed!
Remember that the preparation of kombucha tea involves a fermentation process, so it is important to follow hygiene and safety instructions to avoid contamination. Always confirm that your SCOBY is healthy and in good condition before you start brewing – enjoy your delicious and healthy homemade kombucha!
Sauerkraut and kimchi, fermented pickles to strengthen microbiota
Pickles are fermented foods that contain probiotic foods and are an excellent source of nutrients for the gut microbiota.
At the same time, their flavor combines well with many dishes, making them a versatile choice for daily consumption.
Properties of pickles for intestinal and general health
Pickles are rich in probiotics such as Lactobacillus, Leuconostoc and Pediococcus, among others, which can colonize the intestine and help strengthen the intestinal microbiota and fight gastrointestinal diseases.
In addition, natural pickles contain vitamins such as vitamin K and menaquinonic compounds that support bone health and contribute to the proper functioning of the heart.
Sauerkraut is a typical dish of German and Central European cuisine consisting of fermented cabbage. The cabbage is cut into thin slices and undergoes a fermentation process with salt, which produces a sour taste and a crunchy texture.
The fermentation process of sauerkraut occurs thanks to the bacteria naturally present in the cabbage. During fermentation, the bacteria convert the sugars present in the cabbage into lactic acid, which gives it its characteristic sour taste.
Sauerkraut is used as a garnish or accompaniment to a variety of dishes, such as sausages, sausages, pork, among others. It can also be used as an ingredient in salads, soups or sandwiches. In addition to its delicious taste, sauerkraut is known to be an excellent source of probiotics and vitamin C.
Sauerkraut can be found in supermarkets packaged in jars or bags, but it can also be made at home with relative ease.
How to make sauerkraut, kimchi and other pickles at home
Pickles can be made at home with fresh products and without artificial preservatives. The fermentation process is easy and requires few ingredients, such as vegetables (cabbage, carrots, onion, etc.), water, salt and spices to taste.
Tempeh, miso, natto and other fermented plant-based foods
Fermented plant-based foods such as tempeh, miso, natto and others are probiotic foods with multiple benefits for intestinal and general health.
Properties of fermented plant foods for intestinal and general health
- Improve digestion: fermented plant-based foods are high in digestive enzymes, which help our bodies break down and absorb nutrients from food more easily.
- Strengthening the immune system: fermented plant-based foods contain beneficial microorganisms that can improve the health of the immune system and reduce inflammation in the body.
- They cleanse the liver: fermented plant-based foods are rich in antioxidants and other nutrients that contribute to liver cleansing and detoxification, improving liver health.
- Weight control: fermented plant-based foods are low in calories and high in fiber, which helps control weight.
- Anxiety and stress relief: fermented plant foods contain gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that can reduce anxiety and stress.
Tempeh is a plant-based food obtained from the fermentation of soybeans. It is originally from Indonesia and has become a popular food in various parts of the world due to its nutritional properties and versatility in cooking.
Tempeh is produced by fermenting cooked soybeans with the help of a fungus called Rhizopus oligosporus. During this process, the fungus transforms the soybeans into a kind of compact cake with a firm texture and unique flavor.
This food is an excellent source of vegetable protein and contains essential amino acids that our body needs. It is also rich in fiber, B vitamins, minerals such as iron and calcium, as well as antioxidants.
In cooking, tempeh can be used in a variety of ways. It can be cut into chunks and sautéed, baked or fried to add to salads, sandwiches or main dishes. It can also be shredded and used as a substitute for ground beef in dishes such as tacos, burgers or vegetarian meatballs.
Due to its nutritional profile and ability to absorb flavors, tempeh is an excellent choice for people following vegetarian or vegan diets, as well as for those who wish to incorporate more vegetable protein into their diet.
How to make Tempeh at home
To make homemade tempeh, you will need the following ingredients and materials:
Once the homemade tempeh has finished fermenting, it is ready for consumption. You can use it in various culinary preparations such as stir-fries, stews, stir-fries or even as a base for veggie burgers. Enjoy your homemade tempeh and experiment with different recipes!
Miso is a traditional Japanese seasoning made from the fermentation of soybeans, rice, barley or other grains. It is commonly used in Japanese cuisine to flavor soups, sauces, marinades and dressings. Miso has a rich, savory flavor called “umami,” which adds depth and complexity to dishes.
To make miso, soybeans are cooked and then combined with a culture called koji, which is made from a type of mold called Aspergillus oryzae. The mixture is left to ferment for a period of time that can vary from a few months to several years, depending on the desired flavor and texture.
The result is a miso paste that can have different colors, from light yellow to dark brown, and its flavor can be mild, sweet or intensely savory, depending on the type of miso and the fermentation process. White or light-colored miso is milder and sweeter, while red or dark miso has a stronger, more intense flavor.
How to prepare homemade Miso
Preparing homemade miso requires some time and patience, as it involves a fermentation process. Here is a basic recipe for making homemade miso:
- 500 grams of soybeans (can be whole or split)
- 250 grams of Koji (rice inoculated with Aspergillus oryzae, you can buy it in specialized stores or in online stores on the Internet).
- 150 grams of sea salt (preferably without additives)
- Large pot
- Blender or food processor
- Kitchen thermometer
- Glass containers with tight-fitting lids for miso storage
Remember that homemade miso is a fermentative process and can vary according to your preferences and environmental conditions. Experiment with different fermentation times and proportions to find the flavor you like best and enjoy your homemade miso in soups, dressings and various culinary preparations!
Natto is a traditional Japanese food obtained by fermenting soybeans. It is known for its distinctive taste and texture, as well as for its beneficial nutritional properties.
The fermentation process of natto is carried out using a bacterium called Bacillus subtilis. This bacterium produces enzymes that break down the carbohydrates in soybeans and create a viscous, sticky texture.
Natto has a strong aroma and a unique flavor that may be somewhat peculiar to some people. It is often described as earthy, salty and bitter. The texture is sticky and viscous, similar to a soft cheese.
This food is an excellent source of protein and contains essential amino acids. In addition, it is rich in fiber, vitamin K2, vitamin E, folic acid and minerals such as iron and calcium. It also contains enzymes that can help improve digestion.
In Japanese cuisine, natto is traditionally consumed mixed with hot rice and is often served with various condiments, such as soy sauce, Japanese mustard, chopped green onion and miso soup. It can also be used as an ingredient in sushi, soups or salads.
Natto is prized for its nutritional value and contribution to intestinal health. However, due to its particular taste and texture, it can be a purchased food and not everyone likes it. It is advisable to try it to find out if it is to your liking and enjoy its health benefits if you like it.
How to prepare Natto at home
Preparing homemade natto can be a complicated process and requires specific conditions to achieve proper fermentation. Here is a basic recipe for making homemade natto, although it is important to keep in mind that it may take several attempts to obtain good results:
- 500 grams of soybeans
- 1 tablespoon of Natto-Kin, which is the microorganism Bacillus subitilis (you can find it in specialized stores or in online stores on the Internet).
- Large pot
- Kitchen thermometer
- Glass containers with tight-fitting lids
- Gauze or clean cloths
It is important to mention that fermenting homemade natto can be challenging and may require several attempts to obtain satisfactory results. Temperature, hygiene and the quality of the commercial natto strain can affect the success of the fermentation. Experiment and adjust the process to get the homemade natto you like best!
Raw milk and raw cheese, probiotic foods of animal origin
Fermented foods of animal origin contain live microorganisms that can help balance the intestinal microbiota and improve overall health. Among them, the best known are those made from milk: raw milk and raw cheese, although the possible risks derived from milk that has not been pasteurized must be taken into account.
Raw milk is milk that has not undergone pasteurization or homogenization processes, which means that it retains its natural microbial load. Raw milk can be an excellent source of beneficial bacteria for the gut, which translates into a number of health benefits.
Properties of raw milk and possible risks
As it is a dairy product that has not been pasteurized, it is possible that this milk can, in addition to the beneficial bacteria, bring other bad bacteria that can cause health problems. Some of these pathogenic bacteria are Listeria, Salmonella, E. Coli or Campylobacter.
Although the sale of this milk was prohibited in Spain in 1990, some autonomous communities have subsequently allowed it, if they are authorized establishments and when a series of requirements are met:
- The label on the package must indicate that it has not been treated and must be boiled before consumption.
- It should also indicate “Keep between 1 and 4ºC”.
- The expiration date should not be more than 3 days after milking.
The problem with this type of milk is that we leave the boiling process in the hands of the consumer who, if not boiled for long enough, could be consuming milk that is unfit for consumption with the consequent risk to his or her health.
In addition, the consumer should be sure to discard the milk after 3 days after milking, but it is easy to overdate it.
In short, it is not worth the risk and my opinion is not to consume this type of dairy.
Raw cheese is made from unpasteurized milk, which allows the microorganisms in the milk to grow and develop. Therefore, raw cheese contains a large amount of bacteria that can be beneficial to intestinal health. Among the benefits of raw cheese are.
Obviously, the raw cheese manufacturer must use quality milk that is free of potentially pathogenic microorganisms.
Frequently Asked Questions about Probiotic Foods
What is the best Probiotic Food?
There is no specific natural probiotic that is considered the “best” in all cases, as each probiotic has different strains and in turn has different health benefits.
However, there are several fermented foods and beverages that are known to be rich in probiotics beneficial to the gut. Some of these include:
- Yogurt: Yogurt made from milk fermented with live cultures contains beneficial bacteria, such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
- Sauerkraut: Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage that contains lactic acid bacteria, which can promote intestinal health.
- Kefir: Kefir is a fermented milk or water-based beverage containing a variety of beneficial bacteria and yeasts.
- Kimchi: Kimchi is a Korean dish made from fermented vegetables, such as cabbage, and usually contains Lactobacillus and other bacterial strains.
- Miso: Miso is a fermented paste made from soybeans and grains that may contain beneficial bacteria, such as Bacillus subtilis.
- Tempeh: Tempeh is a fermented soy-based food containing beneficial bacteria, such as Rhizopus oligosporus.
These fermented foods and beverages can provide a good source of probiotic foods. However, the amount and variety of probiotics may vary depending on the fermentation method and other factors.
If you are looking for a specific probiotic for a particular health problem, it is advisable to consult a health professional or a specialized nutritionist for appropriate recommendations.
Which fruit has the most probiotics?
Fruits are not generally known to be a rich source of probiotics, as probiotics are mainly found in fermented foods. However, some fruits may naturally contain certain prebiotic components that promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
The following are some fruits that may have probiotic properties:
- Bananas: Bananas contain fructooligosaccharides (FOS), which are prebiotic fibers that promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestine.
- Apples: Apples contain pectin, a soluble fiber that can act as food for beneficial bacteria in the intestine.
- Kiwi: Kiwi is a fruit rich in vitamin C and fiber, which can have a prebiotic effect and promote the growth of certain beneficial bacteria.
- Pomegranates: Pomegranates are rich in antioxidants and contain polyphenols, which can help promote a healthy intestinal environment for beneficial bacteria.
It is important to keep in mind that the amounts of probiotics in fruits are limited compared to specific fermented foods, such as yogurt or sauerkraut.
If you wish to increase your probiotic intake, it is recommended to consume fermented foods or to resort to specific probiotic supplements, as these will provide a more significant amount of beneficial bacteria for the gut.
Which nuts have probiotics?
Nuts are not a natural source of probiotics, as probiotics are mainly found in fermented foods. However, nuts can be a source of prebiotic fiber, which is a type of fiber that acts as food for beneficial bacteria in the gut.
Some nuts that contain prebiotic fiber include:
- Almonds: Almonds contain a good amount of fiber, including prebiotic fiber that can promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestine.
- Nuts: Nuts are also a good source of fiber, including prebiotic fiber that can have beneficial effects on the gut.
- Pistachios: Pistachios are another nut option that contains prebiotic fiber and may contribute to gut microbiota balance.
It is important to keep in mind that the amount of prebiotic fiber in nuts can vary, and it is recommended to consume them in moderation as part of a balanced diet. P
o obtain an adequate intake of probiotics, it is recommended to opt for fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir or sauerkraut, which are richer in these beneficial bacteria.
What are Probiotic Foods and how do they work?
Probiotic Foods are live microorganisms found in certain fermented foods. Specifically, they are ‘good’ bacteria that help maintain the balance of the intestinal microbiota. These bacteria colonize the gut and produce beneficial substances.
Probiotic Foods help maintain the health of the digestive system, as well as strengthen the immune system and prevent infections.
Are Probiotic Foods different from probiotic supplements?
Yes, probiotic foods are different from probiotic supplements.
Probiotic Foods are found in fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, miso and kimchi, while supplements may contain laboratory-grown strains that are added to a bulking agent to prepare capsules or tablets.
The method of consumption is also different, as fermented foods are consumed as part of a healthy diet, while supplements are taken in the form of tablets, capsules or liquids.
How long does it take to notice benefits from consuming natural probiotic foods?
The time needed to notice the benefits of consuming natural probiotic foods varies from person to person. However, it is believed that significant changes in the gut microbiota may take about 6 weeks.
To maximize results, it is important to incorporate fermented foods into the diet on a regular basis.
Are there any contraindications for consuming Probiotic Foods?
In general, probiotic foods for most people. However, some people may experience side effects such as stomach upset, diarrhea or bloating.
People with a compromised immune system or serious medical conditions should consult a physician before consuming probiotic foods. It is important to follow the consumption instructions of the products and not to exceed the recommended doses.
Recipes and tips for including probiotic foods in your diet
Probiotic foods have become a healthy and delicious trend in everyday eating. These live microorganisms are beneficial to the body and are found in fermented foodssuch as yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh and many more.
Here are some recipes and suggestions for you to include probiotic foods in your diet.
- Yogurt and fruit breakfast. An easy and tasty way to include probiotics in your diet is with a yogurt and fruit breakfast. You can choose your favorite yogurt and add your favorite fruits to get a serving of probiotics and vitamins. If you have a sweet tooth, add a little honey or agave to sweeten.
- Kefir with nuts. Kefir is a fermented drink with multiple health benefits, so if you want to incorporate it into your diet, you can mix it with nuts such as walnuts, hazelnuts or almonds for a complete and nutritious breakfast. Try different nuts to vary the flavor.
- Sauerkraut salad. Sauerkraut is a fermented cabbage-based food that has multiple benefits for intestinal health. To include it in your diet in a simple way, you can add it as an ingredient in a green salad along with other vegetables and a citrus vinaigrette. This way, you will be getting an extra serving of probiotics and fiber in your daily diet.
- Tempeh with wok vegetables. Tempeh is a fermented soy-based product that is used as a meat substitute. If you want to incorporate it into your diet, try stir-frying it with your favorite vegetables in a wok with a little sesame oil and soy sauce for a complete meal rich in vegetable protein and probiotics.
- Smoothie with kombucha. If you like kombucha, a fun way to include it in your diet is in the form of a smoothie. Blend a cup of kombucha with fruits and vegetables such as strawberries, banana or spinach to create a smoothie rich in antioxidants and probiotics.
In addition, you can find a wide variety of recipes online to make your own fermented foods at home. This way, you can customize the flavors and textures according to your personal tastes and make sure they are fresh and healthy.
Dare to experiment and you will see how you will improve your intestinal health and strengthen your immune system!
Pharmacist – Complutense University – Madrid – Spain
Diploma in Ophthalmic Optics and Optometry – Univ. of Barcelona – Spain.
Other types of Probiotics