by Emily Neill
Probiotic-rich foods can be a delicious way to include more beneficial bacteria in your diet, and the majority of them are 100% suitable for vegans.
Often referred to as ‘friendly’ or ‘good bacteria’, probiotics are known to promote healthy digestive and immune systems. These 'good bacteria' ca be found in an array of foods and drinks, so you don't necessarily need to take supplements to add them to your diet.
Today we’re focussing on the best vegan probiotic sources that are 100% plant-based and are known to be able to boost your gut health and overall well-being. Here are our favourites!
Vegan probiotic foods
Sauerkraut in a nutshell is simply fermented cabbage. It’s delicious, and is so versatile. Try cooking it e with stock, beer or wine in soups and stews, or even use it to add to your salads. It’s very popular in the European countries it originates from and getting your hands on some couldn’t be easier – you can make it at home (you simply need two ingredients: cabbage and sea salt) or order it online. Here’s our traditional recipe, or if you’re feeling spicy, you could try our curried coleslaw sauerkraut. Adding plenty of flavour to your meals, sauerkraut also happens to be rich in probiotics and vitamins C and K (winning!).
Similar to sauerkraut, kimchi is a slightly spicy Korean version of this food. Made from vegetables and spices, the process for making it is the same as that of sauerkraut, and you can also order it online. Alternatively, if you fancy giving home-made kimchi a go, Senior Development Chef, Joey, has written up a recipe. Add kimchi to your dishes for fiery flavours, as well as nutritional goodness including probiotics, vitamins and antioxidants. TIP: If you’re eating out, check with the restaurant that their kimchi doesn’t contain seafood.
You can pickle almost any vegetable but popular options include: cucumbers, carrots, radishes, green beans, cauliflower and red bell peppers. And not only is pickling vegetables in brine a straightforward process that creates a tasty, probiotic-rich side dish or garnish for your favourite recipes; it’s also a brilliant way to preserve any leftover vegetables and reduce food waste. So if you’ve had a fruitful season in your allotment or home garden, why not give pickling a go (Dill pickles anyone?). As for the other fermented foods though, you’re able to simply pick up a jar from the supermarket – whatever tickles your pickle (sorry, we couldn’t resist that one!).
What’s not to love about a slice of fresh crusty bread to accompany your soup or breakfast plate? (...mouth wateringly good!). Traditional sourdough bread is made using a fermented starter dough and is an easy way to get some more probiotics into your meals. This might not be the case for all sourdough bread, so worth checking the ingredients if you're choosing sourdough for it's probiotic qualities (but this definitely isn't the only reason we'd recommend a daily intake of toast! If you’re baking it from scratch at home, you’ll need a starter mix like this one.
Miso paste is usually made with fermented soya beans and is a staple ingredient in Japanese cuisine. It has an ultra-savoury flavour that’s salty and tangy but it also comes in lighter varieties which have more sweetness. Savour it in Japanese dishes such as miso soup, salad dressing, stir-fry sauces and marinades. Miso is rich in essential minerals and a good source of vitamins B, E and K as well as providing beneficial bacteria for our guts. TIP: If making miso soup, use warm rather than hot water as high temperatures damage the probiotic bacteria.
If you love earthy flavours, like nuts and mushrooms, you’ll enjoy this soy-based food. It’s a fermented protein, loaded with umami (a Japanese flavour) which gives it a satisfying, savoury taste and makes it a delicious meat substitute in many dishes (so great if you’re trying to pack some more plant-based protein in your diet!). People often choose to enjoy tempeh in salads, stir-fries, burgers, sandwiches and more.
Vegan probiotic drinks
Kombucha is a black or green tea drink, enjoyed chilled and in a variety of flavours. To make it, sugary tea is fermented with symbiotic bacteria and yeast to create a lightly sparkling beverage that’s both refreshing and really good for your gut health. Kombucha can be brewed at home but following its recent increase in popularity, lots of great brands have landed on our supermarket shelves: Equinox (stocked at Waitrose) and No. 1 Living (available from Sainsburys). Why not try a selection of flavours before settling on your favourite? You can even find alcoholic kombucha varieties (unintentional probiotic-fuelled Friday night!).
Kefir is a drinkable yoghurt that’s arrived in our fridges from its Eastern European origins. It has a light, tart flavour similar to unsweetened Greek yogurt. And the best news is that lots of brands use coconut water and water instead of cow or goat milk; so kefir can be vegan too! Try Biomel (available from Waitrose) or Nexba (stocked in Sainsburys). The probiotic benefits come from the protein-rich kefir grains – this key ingredient is where the fermentation takes place. With the added nutritional value of protein, plant-based kefir are a brilliant addition to your fridge if you’re trying to get more probiotics in your plant-based diet.
Check your dairy alternatives too
Some dairy alternatives like soy and nut-based milks and yogurts contain probiotics as well – these good bacteria are added to the products to boost their health benefits. Look out for probiotics strains such as lactobacillus on the labels.
Probiotics aren’t the only foods that help keep our immune systems healthy. If you’ve enjoyed learning about how to incorporate probiotics into your diet, check out our other article on supporting your immune system and alternative sources of vitamin C.
Looking for a quick and easy way to add plant-based probiotic goodness into your weekly menu? Give the following meals try...
allplants miso dishes:
allplants tempeh dish:
by Emily Neill
Emily is our Content and Community Assistant by day, and qualified PT by… later that day. She couldn’t live without exercise (makes sense) so can usually be spotted in her favourite spin class, with our Three Mushroom Risotto for afters.