In the past few years, there has been a surge in research concerning probiotics and gut flora. Although more research is needed, the use of probiotics to prevent and treat various diseases, especially gastrointestinal diseases, is growing in popularity.
So what exactly are probiotics? Probiotics are “good” bacteria/live cultures found naturally in many everyday foods that thrive in the human gut. These specific functional components of foods may improve health and lead to an advantageous intestinal microflora environment. Probiotics do this by helping to change or repopulate intestinal bacteria to balance gut flora.
Probiotics also help break down and digest food, produce vitamins, and suppress other harmful microbes. It has been suggested that components in red meat can alter intestinal microbiota, promoting atherosclerosis; another benefit of veganism is a more well-balanced gut flora population. Nevertheless, this is no reason to skip out on learning more about probiotics and all their wonders. It’s important to continue supporting healthy gut flora, vegan or not!
When discussing probiotics, first, prebiotics should be mentioned. Prebiotics are natural, non-digestible food ingredients linked to promoting the growth of helpful bacteria in the gut. Basically, prebiotics lay the groundwork so probiotics can do their thing. However, in fact, prebiotics themselves may improve gastrointestinal health as well as calcium absorption. Two examples of prebiotics include fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) and galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS). These two prebiotics are commonly found in bananas, onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, artichokes, soybeans, and whole wheat foods. Once prebioitcs have prepped the gut for a grand probiotic introduction, this “good” bacteria may boost immunity and overall health. As stated above, probiotics are being used to treat various health issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome, specific allergy symptoms, and lactose intolerance.
Clearly, probiotics have a lot to boast about, so, where does one find them? The probiotics found in food are more readily available for absorption and digestion compared to the probiotics in supplement form. Cultured dairy foods have many probiotics, but so do a number of non-dairy foods. For example, kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, cultured vegetables, coconut kefir, tempeh, and soy beverages all contain this sought-after bacteria. When you can, try to pair foods that have probiotics with foods that have prebiotics in one meal. The two work together synergistically and products that combine the two are called synbiotics. For instance, in your next stir fry, include both asparagus (prebiotics) and tempeh (probiotics).
Or, even better, to make things really easy and check your plant-based probiotic intake off early in the day, why not start the day off with some probiotic power right away? Here are some tips for getting probiotics in your morning hours; enjoy!
1. Try Starting Your Day With Kombucha
2. Eat Your Morning Granola with Soy Milk
When shopping for soy milk at the store, look for brands that contain “live cultures” and state the structure function claim, “promotes a healthy digestive system.” These are the brands that include probiotics. Splash some soy milk on this tasty granola and enjoy the live cultures now partying in your stomach.
3. Mix Up a Morning Green Smoothie
Try a green smoothie that includes coconut kefir, a coconut product full of probiotics. If green smoothies aren’t your thing, no problem– just add coconut kefir to your favorite blend of fruits and you will still reap the benefits.
4. Probiotic Power Up with a ‘Cheesy’ Breakfast Sandwich/Wrap
Although dairy free, vegan cheese can also be a source of gut healthy probiotics. Be sure to check labels when shopping or, if you’re making your own, add in probiotics yourself! Here is one probiotic-friendly vegan cheese recipe that would be great melted into a breakfast sandwich.
5. Load Up on Coconut Yogurt
Like vegan cheese, vegan yogurt can be the home of many probiotics as well. If you haven’t already, try out this raw coconut yogurt and start building some breakfast parfaits!
How do you get your probiotic on first thing in the morning? Let us know in the comments! Also, if you’re looking for ways to get probiotics throughout the day beyond just breakfast, be sure to check out our great list here.