Probiotics plays an important role in maintaining the Gut flora or the symbiotic bacterial ecosystem in our intestine. These symbiotic bacteria has various beneficial functions including aiding digestion, increasing immunity while competition with pathogens, maintain gastrointestinal health, lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. Some recent research has shown how Probiotics can help treat autism. There benefits to health of infant and women are well researched.
While many probiotic supplements oral or rectal suppository or vaginal suppositories are available in market, one of the best way to enjoy benefits of Probiotics is to include probiotic foods in your diet. There also exists class of food which are symbiotic (prebiotic and probiotic) Below is list of some natural probiotic food.
Natural Probiotic foods
Dairy products are most commonly used source of probiotic food. While processed or pasteurized milk doesn’t contain much good bacteria, raw unprocessed milk contains healthy bacteria.
Yoghurt or fermented milk is one of the richest sources of symbiotic bacteria. Yoghurt is formed by heating milk till 800C so as to kill undesirable bacteria and denature milk proteins. Then culture of lactobacillus bacteria or some yoghurt is added. Milk is fermented in 4-5 hours to form yoghurt. Thus yoghurt is nothing but rich culture of bacteria made with milk as base. Yogurt is used in preparation of various recipes, which not only makes them tasty and healthy but also probiotic. Depending on source of milk proportion of Probiotics may vary. Sweet Lassi is popular drink made from yoghurt in North India. Buttermilk tastes milder than yogurt are also good source of Probiotics. Curd or Cottage cheese obtained from coagulating milk with lemon, vinegar or other acidic substance, have some probiotic activity, but not as strong as yogurt. Often aged curd or curd from raw milk is more probiotic. Most processed cheese don’t have much probiotic activity.
Kefir is another popular fermented health drink which is believed to be rich source of Probiotics. It is made by fermenting milk with kefir grains – combination of yeast along with bacteria in compact proteins, lipids, sugar and other nutrients. Kefir grains has been used for over 5000 years.
Ayran, Chaas, Chalap, Doogh, Filmjölk, Kumis, Leben, Labneh, Lassi, Matsoni, Ryazhenka, Shanklish, Skyr, Smetana, Shubat and Viili are just another fermented dairy products with probiotic activity.
Dark chocolate is made by processing fermented cocoa beans and is believed to have probiotic activity. Due to processing and preservatives, their probiotic acvitity is largely reduced. However study shows that they act as better carrier of probiotic bacteria over milk. Only probiotic dark chocolates have sufficient bacteria to term it as probiotic food.
Spirulina is blue green algae with rich source of protein and other nutrients. They are considered probiotic food with helpful bacteria that host on them. They are also very good prebiotic food – help feeding symbiotic bacteria in gut flora.
Chlorella is a single celled algae similar to spirulina which is considered to be nutritious and good source of probiotic bacteria. Its nutrient content is good for developing culture of healthy bacteria in our intestine.
Due to fermentation activity, olive brines have large amount of Probiotics.
One of the health benefits of bananas includes its probiotic activity. They supply body with digestive bacteria and allows media for their culture. Along with necessary fibers they are also helpful in keeping digestive tract healthy.
Natural soy milk products have mild probiotic benefits. Modified probiotic variants of soy milk products are available in market these days. Soy milk offers proteins and carbohydrates of culture of probiotic bacteria.
Moringa yogurt is made from protein from moringa leaves. Just like yogurt they are good Probiotics. Consuming moringa yogurt brings dual benefits – health benefits of moringa and Probiotics health benefits.
Whole Grain Bread
Whole grain bread is often fortified with Probiotics. They are good media for culture of probiotic bacteria growth and their delivery to human intestine.
Infant gets its first inoculation of Probiotics from consumption of breast milk and especially colostrums which is secreted by mammary glands soon after child birth. Mother’s colostrum have high probiotic content supplying infant with necessary bacteria for digestion of milk protein. 
Tea is prepared from fermentation of leaves from tea plants. However Kombucha tea is considered to have strong probiotic activity. A kombucha is basically type of symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY) just like Kefir. Kombucha tea has been consumed traditionally for its health benefits and probiotic activity. However kombucha tea is prone to contamination.
Sprouted cereals are nutrition ground for growth of bacteria with probiotic activity. However caution is expected as contamination can happen. They have been found culprits of spreading harmful bacteria as well in past.
Some fermented food items which have found to be probiotic
- Sauerkraut – fermented cabbage recipe
- Miso Soup – Japanese traditional medicine from fermented rye, bean, rice and miso
- Kimchi – Korean pickled cabbage
- Sauerkraut – another pickled cabbage recipe with Probiotics
- Pickles – most pickles have stable probiotic activity
- Tempeh – is similar to tofu made from soy beans.
- Dosa and Idli – South Indian recipe made from rice and lentil flour fermented overnight made into pancake like dosa or steamed idli
- Dhokla – lentil flour mixture fermented along with buttermilk or yogurt, steamed to make dhoklas, originated from Gujarat, India.
It is important while enjoying benefits of Probiotics to limit usage of anti-biotics, as they cannot differentiate between good bacteria vs. bad bacteria. Often Probiotic supplements are recommended after antibiotic course to redevelop gut flora.Image Credits: Wikimedia