While yoghurt is the most well-known source of probiotics, healthy products boasting great amounts of vegan probiotics are on the rise.
Probiotics are more than just a buzzword these days. They have established themselves as powerhouses in human health and are a key part of any diet. However, not all sources of probiotics are vegan, but luckily there are still great options to incorporate them into a plant-based diet.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that live in the body and provide several health benefits. Humans benefit from probiotics because we are host to 100 trillion microorganisms, which represent over 500 types of bacteria, most of which are found in the bowel.
Ensuring you are consuming the daily recommended amount of vegan probiotics can offer a slew of health benefits. Probiotics have been shown to improve digestion, alleviate gastrointestinal problems, improve mental health and help with anxiety, depression, and autism.
Additionally, eating probiotics can help manage symptoms associated with type 2 diabetes, reduce the risk of colorectal cancer, and improve metabolic diseases such as obesity, diabetes and liver disease.
Read our analysis of the evidence between a vegan diet and colorectal cancer.
It is important to note that different strains of bacteria help address different health conditions. Making sure you consume a variety of vegan probiotics is key to getting the full range of benefits.
Sources of Vegan Probiotics
Sauerkraut is a fermented cabbage dish popular in Eastern European cuisines. It is rich in probiotics, as well as potassium and vitamins C and K.
Sauerkraut can be made by fermented cabbage in brine, which is a saltwater solution. The bacteria on the cabbage converts the sugar into lactic acid. This results in a crunchy and sour condiment that is great to incorporate into sandwiches and salads.
If shopping for it at the store, make sure to choose an unpasteurised product, as pasteurisation destroys many of the beneficial bacteria.
Aside from cabbage, there are quite a few other vegetables that are great when pickled, like cucumbers, carrots, radishes, green beans, and red bell peppers. For an extra layer of flavour and added nutrients, add garlic, bay leaves or peppercorns while fermenting.
The process, called lacto-fermentation, creates a good number of probiotics in the food. This combination is simply vegetables, salt, and water.
Another fermented cabbage dish, kimchi is a spicier version popular in Korean dishes. It contains a great combination of probiotics, vitamins, and antioxidants. Making kimchi is similar to the process of making sauerkraut, but kimchi typically has added spices and other vegetables.
Most Koreans eat this as a tasty snack, but if you cannot quite handle the heat, we recommend adding it to sandwiches, salads, or poke bowls.
Ah, the beloved kombucha is much more than just a tangy drink popular with health nuts. Kombucha, a fermented tea, is a great source of vegan probiotics. It additionally is a great source of antioxidants, may reduce the risk of heart disease, and help manage type 2 diabetes.
While it is easy to find kombucha at most grocery stores nowadays, it can still be fun to make your own. To brew kombucha, you’ll need a SCOBY starter kit, which is a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.
Similar to kombucha, water kefir is a probiotic beverage. Historically used to create fermented dairy products, it is now popular in the vegan probiotic space too, helping create fermented vegan yoghurt and other products.
It also requires a starter kit to make at home, but you can now easily find these products in most supermarkets.
Tempeh is tofu’s fermented sibling. Fermenting soybeans results in a product rich in vegan probiotics and protein. It also boasts high amounts of vitamins and minerals. It has been associated with decreasing cholesterol levels, oxidative stress, and improving bone health.
Its firm texture and nutty flavour make it a great option to add to many dishes. Give it a try in stir-fries, sandwiches, or homemade burgers.
Another fermented soy product, miso is a great source of vegan probiotics. It is also rich in antioxidants, B vitamins, vitamins E, K and folic acid and, of course, beneficial bacteria.
Miso paste can be found at most grocery stores and can easily be incorporated into salad dressings, sauces, and marinades. You can also whip up a pot of miso soup.
Read all you need to know about miso soup.
While adding fermented foods into your vegan diet is a great option, adding probiotic supplements into your daily routine is also something to consider, as they offer an easy alternative.
Just list probiotic products, not all are suitable for vegans, but checking labels should easily inform consumers. Additionally, probiotic supplements are not regulated, so be sure to conduct research on the products before purchasing to ensure they are from a reputable company.