You might be swayed by so-called “superfoods” or blindsighted by busy “packed with protein” packaging, but there is one food group which is often neglected, despite being one of the best for us – and that’s probiotics.
Often only associated with yoghurts (can somebody say ‘Yakult’?), probiotics actually come in various forms, each with their own unique health benefits. But what exactly are probiotics, and why are they so important for your diet? Read on to unpack this essential food group.
Firstly, what are probiotics?
In a nutshell, probiotics keep the gut healthy. How? Well, once consumed, they feed the bacteria in the good, ultimately balancing both the “good” and “bad” bacteria (this is essential as imbalances cause gut inflammation and digestive issues, like IBS).
While studies are still being conducted around gut health, the benefits of a diverse microbiome – including its ability to reduce obesity and protect the body from certain common illnesses – are unarguable.
Which foods are probiotics?
From fermented favourites like sauerkraut and kimchi to everyday items like pickles and olives, probiotics are everywhere. Below are some of our favourite probiotic foods for a healthy gut:
The best types are made only with 100% milk, no sugars or additives. Skyr, with its thick, slow-churned consistency, has some of the highest probiotic content of any yogurt (note: a thick consistency usually means the yogurt hasn’t lost too much of the good bacteria during production).
A special type of acid-set cheese, quark comes packed with mesophillic bacteria, a good kind of bacteria that feeds other bacteria in the gut. Unlike other cheeses, quark is low in fat and high in protein, and can be used as a substitute for yogurts, creams and other soft cheeses.
Yaar Bars are our favourite way to get quark in our diet; creamy, moreish and only 140 calories. The toffee flavour bar especially blows our mind.
As the pasteurising process kills off a lot of the good bacteria in sauerkraut, always opt for unpasteurised if you can.
While you can buy sauerkraut from the shops, the highest probiotic sauerkraut you will find is made at home. It is really easy to do, too: all you need is cabbage, juniper berries, salt and a Mason jar.
A member of the fermented family, olives are one of the most nutrient-dense foods you can find in your local shop. Along with being rich in lactobacillus, a strain of good bacteria, olives are heart healthy, too (they’re packed with monounsaturated fats and digestion-friendly polyphenols). Similarly, olive oil is an excellent source of probiotics and good fat.
To get both in our diet, we love to snack on The Real Olive Co.’s range. These juicy olives are some of the best we’ve tried outside of Greece – plus, you can use the leftover olive oil from the pot for topping Greek salads. Our favourite flavour? Kasbah!
For a healthy lifestyle free of inflammation, you need to a healthy gut. For more information about adding more gut-friendly foods into your diet, take a look at the best probiotic-rich breakfast foods, here.