Trying to make your diet more gut-healthy without having to eat the same old probiotic foods? Nothing against good old yogurt, of course, but hey – your tastebuds need diversity!
Well, here’s an easy fix. Start adding some of the world’s most nutritious, probiotic-rich foods into your diet. We’ve collected the tastiest, bacteria-laden (in a good way) treats from every corner of the planet so you can start doing just that!
Ready for a tour around the probiotics-rich globe?
Kimchi is a traditional, ultra-popular Korean side dish. Also known as kimchee or gimchi, this fermented delight is eaten at nearly every meal.
In fact, it is so popular that it is the national dish of Korea and most South Koreans have separate refrigerators just to store kimchi! Which is not too surprising when you consider that the average South Korean eats almost 20 kg of kimchi per year!
Any Korean restaurant worth its salt will have an array of kimchi side dishes so visit one in your area to explore one that suits your tastebuds. You’ll find kimchi made with an array of ingredients like cabbage, radish, cucumber, scallion, ginger, garlic, shrimp sauce, oyster sauce and fish sauce.
You’ll find spicy southern-style kimchi as well as more mild northern-inspired blends – there are a lot of variations so there’s a good chance of you finding one you love.
On top of being low in calories, Kimchi is high in dietary fibre. Plus, a single serving will also provide you with a whopping 50% of the daily recommended dose of vitamin C! On top of all this, Kimchi is rich in vitamin A, thiamine, riboflavin, calcium, lactic acid and iron.
Kind of makes you want to get a kimchi fridge yourself, huh?
Here is another Asian treat teeming with probiotics. This traditional Japanese dish is made with fermented soybeans. But while it is a popular dish, it is also a very…controversial one.
You see, while it cannot be denied that natto is great for your health – it doesn’t really make the best first impression. It’s not just the strong fermented soybean smell (think miso soup, but like 100x stronger); it’s the fact that natto is sort of stringy and gooey (think okra).
Most people, especially foreigners, either love natto or hate it. As for the Japanese – it’s pretty popular there. It is especially popular in the countryside of Japan but you will find it all over the country. Many rural Japanese people start their day with a breakfast of natto covered in soy sauce, mustard and onions. They often have it with probiotic-rich miso soup and rice on the side.
No wonder the Japanese have the longest life expectancy.
Just one cup of natto has nearly 20% of your daily recommended intake of calcium, vitamin C, magnesium, fibre and potassium. A serving of natto also has an amazing 40% of your daily protein needs.
Are you regularly running low on iron? You can get a staggering 47% of your daily iron needs from a single serving of natto. What more could you ask for from breakfast?
Sauerkraut (Europe, sort of)
One single serving of sauerkraut has more than ten trillion bacteria. Try to wrap your head around that!
Not only is sauerkraut a great source of probiotics, cabbage itself is packed with good-for-you stuff. Even before it goes into the sauerkraut, cabbage is a top source of vitamins K, C and B6 on top of its impressive anti-inflammatory properties (it’s also got Vitamin U, which is actually not a vitamin but an enzyme shown to promote the rapid healing of peptic ulcers).
Don’t like sauerkraut? Keep trying! While you might not like sitting down to a heaping plateful of the sour stuff, there are a million and one different ways to eat it. Start looking for recipes. If you haven’t had it before, try a Reuben sandwich. This hot sandwich is loaded down with corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, Thousand Island dressing, and tastes nothing like plain sauerkraut. Also be sure to check out recipes for quesadillas and casseroles with sauerkraut.
Fun fact: Although sauerkraut is mostly associated with Easter European cuisine, it’s actually believed to have been introduced to Europe over 1,000 years ago by Genghis Khan after he invaded China.
Another fun fact – sauerkraut may be popular all over Europe but did you know the French and Americans have the highest per-capita consumption of fermented white cabbage? Well, bon appetit, guys, ’cause this stuff is great for you!
Indonesia has got their own way of fermenting soybeans and is it ever amazing! Tempeh is pretty much everything that you could ask for from a food. It is incredibly versatile. You can make it bake, grill, stir fry or deep fry it.
You really can’t go wrong with it because it will absorb the flavors around it. Try it in any recipe that you would normally use meat in. It’s a perfect vegetarian alternative in any and every occasion.
One of the most remarkable things about tempeh is that it actually provides you with more calcium than milk. While our body’s absorption rate from milk is only 34% we absorb a full 37% of the calcium in tempeh.
This incredible, edible soybean is also loaded with phosphorus, vitamin B, and magnesium. A single serving will also give you almost half of your day’s requirement for protein and fibre. Did I mention that it’s loaded with probiotics? It’s a real staple of any healthy fridge.
Greek yogurt (Greece)
You have probably already heard about the wonders of Greek yogurt. Not only is this stuff tasty, it also has double the protein of regular yogurt. While it has slightly less calcium than other yogurts, a single serving of Greek yogurt will still give you almost 20% of your daily recommended calcium intake. Like other yogurts, the Greek stuff is also packed with probiotics.
If you are having trouble adding it to your diet, get creative. While it is not as sweet as other yogurts, Greek yogurt makes a great sour cream alternative. You can also make it a bit sweeter with a bit of honey, dates or bananas and have it solo.
This Indian butter variation is a tasty and healthy source of fat. Not only is it full of Omega 3 and Omega 9 essential fatty acids and probiotics, ghee will also give you a good dose of vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Even better, ghee is a perfect way to get a butter fix for people who are lactose intolerant. It is just as versatile as butter so you can use it in all of your favourite rich, buttery recipes.
Never heard of poi? It is time for a trip to Hawaii!
This wonder food is made from the fermented root of a taro plant. Many people eat this delicious treat plain or add in a bit of milk and sugar to make up for the natural sweetness that is lost in the fermentation process.
It can be a bit tricky to find in some part of the world but don’t despair. If you can get a hold of some Taro root, you can make your own… or you can use the excuse to get to the island!
Miso Soup (Japan)
This traditional Japanese soup is a healthy addition to any meal. Another fermented soybean dish, miso soup is a milder alternative for those of us who just can’t down any more natto.
Whatever your tastes are, you can probably find a miso soup that you like. From the light, sweet miso soup that is made from white miso to the deep, strong flavour of red miso, there is a lot of variation in this simple soup.
Miso soup is a dieter’s dream food. A cup of it will help to fill you up but has a mere 84 calories on average. A little bowl will also give you almost 90% of your vitamin A needs as well as nearly 10% of your vitamin C, iron and calcium needs.
Do keep an eye on sodium, though. Like pretty much any soup, miso soup will give you a good dose of salt.
Kombucha tea (China)
Ready for a quick and easy dose of probiotics? Down a Kombucha tea! This fermented mix of tea and sugar is an excellent source of probiotics.
Kombucha tea isn’t without its controversy though. While most experts agree that it is good for your gut health, there are some people who take things a bit further. For the most part, ignore them. There isn’t a tea that can cure cancer. Don’t listen to these lofty claims and focus on just getting some probiotics.
Want more probiotic-rich drinks?
Another great way to drink your probiotics, this milk-yogurt hybrid is packed with good stuff. Whether you want to drink it straight or add some fruit for a tasty smoothie, kefir is a must-have.
The liquid gold is full of Vitamin B12, B1, and Vitamin K. You’ll also get nearly 20% of your day’s calcium intake from a cup of the stuff.
If you can’t sit down to a full glass of it, try it as a milk substitute. Rather than blending smoothies with milk, add in some kefir. You won’t even taste it and you’ll get all of the health benefits.
Need another reason to love cheese? Grab some of the good stuff that has been made from raw, unpasteurised milk. These probiotic-rich cheese have everything that you expect from cheese like calcium, protein, phosphorus, and zinc as well as vitamins A and B12.
To make sure that you are getting a healthy dose of probiotics alongside your calcium, check the label. Look for phrases like “good source of probiotics” or “made from raw milk”.
Cheeses like cheddar, edam, provolone, feta and gouda are all potentially great sources of probiotics if they are made from raw, unpasteurized milk. Do be careful with raw milk though. Certain people like pregnant women and those with weaken immune systems can’t take any risks when it comes to bacteria.