Probiotics are the beneficial live microorganisms that live in your body. Your body is full of microorganisms like yeasts and bacteria – both good and bad – and these live organisms make up your microbiome.
Probiotics perform vital functions in your body, such as supporting your immune system, metabolism, and digestion. They also keep the ‘bad’ bacteria at bay by stopping them from multiplying.
An unbalanced microbiome where the ‘bad’ bacteria have overgrown, on the other hand, has been linked to numerous diseases.
While you can consume probiotics in the form of supplements, they naturally occur in cultured or fermented foods. Eating foods with probiotics will support the beneficial bacteria in your microbiome and keep it healthy.
Here are four lesser-known foods you should eat to get more beneficial probiotics in your diet.
1. Brine-Cured Olives and Pickles
Olives and pickles that have been cured in brine are excellent sources of probiotics. They are allowed to ferment for an extended period in their own lactic acid bacteria, which gives them their sour flavor. The Lactobacillus found in salt-water fermentation processes is very beneficial for gut health.
However, to reap the benefits of the probiotics, it’s important to choose olives and pickles that have been cured in salty water and not vinegar. Avoid olives and pickles that contain sodium benzoate because this additive can negate Lactobacillus’ effects.
Tempeh is an Indonesian product made from fermented soybeans and shaped into a firm patty or block. Tempeh’s flavor is described as earthy, nutty, and similar to a mushroom.
Tempeh is made by adding a tempeh culture or starter to soybeans, which are left to ferment for a few days. You can eat it raw, boiled, grilled, baked, or fried. Like tofu, it is often used as a high-protein meat substitute in vegetarian dishes.
Tempeh also contains vitamin B12, a nutrient mainly found in animal products such as fish, meat, dairy, and eggs.
3. Traditional Buttermilk
Popular in India, Nepal, and Pakistan, buttermilk is made from the liquid byproduct of churned butter. There are two types of buttermilk – traditional and cultured.
Traditional buttermilk is a low-fat fermented dairy drink that contains substantial amounts of vitamin B12, calcium, riboflavin, phosphorus, and probiotics.
Take note that the cultured buttermilk typically found in grocery stores contains no live probiotics – look for buttermilk that contains live cultures to get the probiotic benefits.
4. Raw Cheese
Raw, unpasteurized cheeses made from sheep, A2 cow, and goat’s milk are excellent sources of various probiotics. They contain L. bulgaricus, B. Bifidum, T. thermophilus, and L. acidophilus.
When choosing cheese for its probiotic effects, look for “live” or “active” cultures on the label. While most cheeses are fermented, they do not all contain probiotics because they do not always survive the aging process. Soft, young cheeses like mozzarella, cheddar, cottage cheese, and gouda contain live cultures, or you can make raw milk cheese at home.
Cheese isn’t just great for your health because of its probiotic content; it’s also a highly nutritious source of protein, vitamin B12, selenium, and phosphorus.