Probiotics are often used as supplements to help with digestive issues, promote gut health, reduce irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms, and improve skin health, among other things. The best probiotics, though, can be hard to find when you have dietary restrictions, such as veganism. Fortunately, there are plenty of excellent vegan probiotics out there. All you need to do is choose the one that’s right for you! This article takes you through the 8 Best Natural Probiotics for Vegans and how to add them to your diet.
How to choose the best find the right probiotic products and introduce you to some of the best vegan probiotics, including food sources. But first, let’s get some definitions out of the way…
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are live microorganisms that are similar to the good bacteria in your gut. Probiotics help fight off harmful organisms, promote the growth of beneficial ones, and keep your digestive system healthy and in balance. They naturally occur in certain fermented foods, such as yogurts, kefir, and sauerkraut. They’re also available in supplement form, typically as pills or powders that can be added to water or smoothies.
Most probiotics are animal-based, which makes it essential that you learn the available vegan alternatives.
Best Vegan Probiotics To Try
For a lot of people, probiotic foods are the go-to choice when they want to improve their digestive health and manage symptoms like gas and bloating, as well as diarrhea or constipation. While many foods contain probiotics, specific vegan foods are great sources of these good bacteria. These may include:
1. Plant-based yogurt
When you think of yogurt, you probably think of it as a healthy alternative to ice cream, right? Well, that’s because it is! Yogurt is generally high in probiotics and other beneficial nutrients—however, the type you choose to consume matters a lot.
Since most yogurts in the market are dairy-based, they may not be a great option given the side effects of dairy. That’s where vegan probiotics come in. They are not only rich in probiotics but also contain other nutrients like calcium which can help strengthen your teeth and bones. They are also high in protein which may play an important role in controlling your appetite and food intake, causing you to lose weight or maintain a healthy one.
Best examples of plant-based yogurts may include coconut yogurt, almond yogurt, oat milk yogurt, cashew milk yogurt. Any other plant-based milk can be made into yogurt.
Regular consumption of these yogurts may offer various health benefits, including:
- Improved digestive health
- Reduced risk of diabetes type 2
- Reduced risk of colorectal cancer
- Reduced cholesterol
- Boosts the immune system
- Improved bone density
- Reduced high blood pressure
- Osteoporosis prevention
Not only is fermented cabbage a rich source of probiotics, but it also contains compounds believed to help fight cancer and prevent cardiovascular disease. It’s also extremely inexpensive and lasts indefinitely in your fridge if stored properly. Sauerkraut can be used as a base for various meals, be incorporated into other dishes, be eaten as a winter salad, or be used as a side dish.
Incorporating more naturally fermented foods—cabbage included—into your diet is a great way to add fiber and super healthy bacteria. Try adding some homemade sauerkraut to your next meal to start experiencing the benefits. And if you’ll be getting yours from the store, make sure you buy an organic, non-pasteurized brand.
Sauerkraut can be found on nearly every supermarket shelf these days, but ensure you buy a brand that has been left to naturally ferment and not pickled. Pickled cabbage may taste fermented, but it doesn’t contain probiotics
Also, to benefit from the probiotic effects, make sure you eat it regularly. Though not so diverse in probiotics, it’s also high in vitamin C, B, and K, manganese, iron, sodium, and antioxidants, all of which can promote good health and wellbeing.
Nonetheless, sauerkraut is also high in organic acids such as lactic acid and butyric acid, beneficial for overall wellbeing and the growth of good bacteria in the gut.
Kombucha is a fizzy, fermented tea made by adding SCOBY (an acronym for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) into sweetened tea and letting it ferment for 7-10 days or even longer, depending on individual preference.
Green or black tea is commonly used. One can use any kind of tea but not flavored or those with additives.
The bacteria and yeast present in SCOBY feed on the sugar in the tea resulting in a tangy, unsweetened, refreshingly fizzy beverage.
For extra flavor and carbonation, the kombucha tea is sweetened with fresh sugary fruit puree/juice and left to ferment in air-tight bottles for another 5-7 days. It can also be spiced with different spices such as cinnamon and ginger and herbs such as mint and basil.
Kombucha is so full of probiotics and provides a great way to experience the health benefits of green tea.
This deliciously spicy, salted, and fermented vegetable is a traditional Korean staple often served as a side dish. It is typically made from cabbage, seasonings, and spices such as garlic, chili peppers, and ginger.
It’s rich in probiotics that have been shown to improve constipation, mental health, gut issues, some cancer types, common colds, heart health, and mental health.
It’s also high in nutrients such as vitamin C, B6, and K, folate, iron, niacin, riboflavin, proteins, sodium, fiber, and carbohydrates.
Additionally, kimchi may help boost the immune system, reduce inflammation, slow aging, prevent yeast infections, and aid weight loss.
Tempeh is a highly nutritious protein-dense soy product thought to have originated from Indonesia.
Unlike tofu, tempeh is made from fermented soybeans and /or wheat and pressed into a compact cake.
Soybeans contain higher levels of phytic acid, a natural compound that promotes mineral deficiencies by impairing the absorption of minerals like zinc, iron, and calcium.
Thanks to fermentation, it helps lower the amount of phytic acid, allowing your body to absorb as many minerals as tempeh has to offer.
Also, the fermentation process leads to the production of B vitamins such as B12.
Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin mainly found in animal products making tempeh a great vegan and vegetarian source.
Tempeh is a popular vegetarian protein source and a vegan meat replacement, but its benefits can benefit even non-vegans.
It may also help lower your cholesterol levels, reduce oxidative stress, promote bone health, and reduce appetite.
Besides its nutritional profile, tempeh may not be suitable for individuals allergic to soy.
Some symptoms to watch out for may include difficulty breathing, hives, and swelling.
If you’ve ever been to a Japanese restaurant, you probably might have seen their traditional miso soup.
Miso is a traditional Japanese seasoning paste made from fermented soybean, brown rice with koji (a fungus used in soybean fermentations), or barley.
Miso soup is simple yet famous throughout the world. It’s simply prepared by adding a tablespoon of miso paste into a pot of water with seaweed and other preferred ingredients.
Other delicious ways to use miso include in salad dressings, adding to onions for burgers, in marinades, as a soy or salt seasoning alternative, as a spread on crackers, or in stir-fries.
Kefir, a fermented milk product, has become increasingly popular in recent years thanks to its numerous health benefits. It has been consumed in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East for centuries. In fact, there are records of people drinking kefir that date back to the 14th century! Kefir grains are composed of several strains of friendly bacteria, with one of them being Lactobacillus. Kefir grains can be used to ferment any type of milk or dairy alternative and make kefir products that are lower in sugar and contain live and active cultures.
What is natto? Natto is a fermented soybean dish popular in Japanese cuisine. It’s made by adding the Bacillus subtilis bacterium to boiled soybeans, which are then mashed into a sticky paste and allowed to ferment for several days at room temperature. Although natto may sound unpleasant to those unaccustomed to it, there are lots of health benefits of natto, especially when it comes to digestive health.
Natto is a good source of vegan probiotics that can help ease your digestion and promote your gut microbiome. Eating probiotic foods has also been linked to improved moods and greater life satisfaction.
If you haven’t heard of it, this incredible prebiotic-rich drink might soon be catching up with kombucha in the health and wellness industry.
It’s a fermented drink that originated in Russia and whose probiotic benefits, fermentation process, and taste are much like kombucha.
It’s made from fermented stale rye or sourdough bread or beets, and it can further be flavored with fruits, raisins, honey, and herbs.
With less than 1% alcohol content, Kvass is considered a non-alcoholic beverage; however, prolonged fermentation periods may increase its alcohol content.
With just a glass of Kvass, you stand a chance to consume a wide range of nutrients such as probiotics, vitamin B12, manganese, selenium, folate, and thiamine.
Beet kvass may help balance blood PH, cleanse the liver, and prevent cancer.
Pickles, also known as gherkins, are cucumbers that have been put in a salted water solution, then left to ferment for some time. This gives them a sour flavor and greatly lengthens their shelf life.
They are low in calories and a great source of probiotics, beneficial for digestive health.
They are also a good source of vitamin K, an essential vitamin for blood clotting processes.
However, pickled cucumbers may be high in sodium. Also, note that not all pickles are rich in probiotics. For example, vinegar pickles do not contain probiotics.
Don’t Forget Prebiotics
Now that you know about probiotics, the good bacteria that live in your intestines and are considered beneficial to your health, did you know that there is also prebiotics?
Prebiotics are beneficial fibers that help to nourish those probiotics? They are basically a type of fiber that humans don’t break down or digest. This is beneficial because fiber helps feed gut bacteria, which in turn can provide some benefits to human health. The majority of prebiotic dietary fiber comes from plant sources, which makes it easier for vegans to get sufficient amounts.
Prebiotics are one of the most important dietary ingredients you can eat, yet many people aren’t even aware that they exist. Their benefits extend far beyond the realm of the gut to your general health and wellbeing.
How Do Prebiotics Work?
While it’s not fully understood exactly how prebiotics work, research shows that they stimulate the good bacteria in your gut. And because of their ability to stimulate specific probiotic strains, prebiotics are often referred to as selective pre-digestive carbohydrates. This means that they selectively feed probiotic strains to help us achieve better digestion and overall health.
Foods that Contain Prebiotics
Some examples of foods that contain prebiotics include
- Whole Grains
- Nuts like almonds and walnuts
- Legumes like chickpeas
- Fruits like plums
- Vegetables like cabbage, brussels sprouts, and artichokes
Some medical experts believe these fibers promote a healthy gut and help prevent colon cancer. In addition to helping you feel full longer between meals, eating prebiotic-rich foods can reduce your risk for developing type 2 diabetes, help you maintain a healthy weight, and strengthen the immune system.
To reap the most benefits from your prebiotic diet, try pairing them with probiotic foods. The two work together to fight off harmful bacteria and keep digestion on track so you can maintain optimal digestive health.
Vegan Probiotic Supplements
While vegan probiotic foods are the best, some people may find it more convenient to consume a supplement. That’s why it’s essential to understand how to choose the best vegan probiotic to ensure you’re getting all the crucial probiotic strains.
Choosing the right vegan probiotic supplement can be tricky, but the choices you make can greatly impact your health and well-being, particularly if you are trying to manage digestive issues. To help you narrow down your options, here are eight things to consider before buying any probiotic supplement.
a. Does it have your target microorganisms?
The most common strains of probiotics are lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. While these strains can be found in fermented foods, they may not be abundant. Ensure that any vegan probiotic supplement you’re considering has these specific bacteria in good amounts.
A good probiotic should contain more than 10 billion viable bacteria strains (or more) per dose often measured in colony-forming units or CFUs.
b. Are there multiple strains of bacteria or just one?
Other probiotic strains often used in supplements include Enterococcus, Saccharomyces, Streptococcus, Escherichia, and Bacillus. However, many products do not contain high enough concentrations of either. In fact, 30 percent of all probiotic supplements have no detectable organisms at all.
Also, look for vegan supplement formulas that also contain prebiotics. Prebiotics work together with probiotics to help nourish and support a healthy gut flora balance.
Also, make sure your vegan probiotic supplement offers as many different strains as possible, so you get maximum diversity in your microbiome while encouraging full colonization of each strain.
c. When was it manufactured?
Supplements aren’t regulated by any particular agency, so it’s up to you to decide whether or not you trust a manufacturer. One way to do that is to check when it was manufactured and stored.
The older it is, the less potent it’ll be—so consider looking for products with an expiration date of about two years from now. Don’t buy any probiotics if you don’t know when they were made. Many probiotics have only a shelf life of 2-3 years, so any product beyond that is unlikely to be viable and effective.
d. Is it suitable for vegans?
A vegan diet is free from all animal products and by-products, including eggs, dairy, honey, fish, and meat. So it’s worth checking whether or not your probiotic supplement is suitable for vegans. Many probiotics come from dairy products, and you could be consuming traces of it.
Pay attention to what you’re purchasing; labels will indicate whether or not your probiotics are vegan-friendly. If your brand of choice doesn’t clearly label their product as vegan-friendly, look elsewhere.
e. Does it have any unwanted additives, allergens, or fillers?
Even if your probiotic supplement is an organic and high-quality brand, you should check that it doesn’t contain any unwanted additives, allergens, or fillers. These can affect its efficacy, which is something you want to avoid when taking any supplement. Common culprits include artificial colors, artificial sweeteners, and corn syrup. The better option would be a pill with no filler ingredients at all.
f. How much does it cost compared to similar products on the market?
Typically, probiotics cost less than $15. If you find that your supplement is more expensive, check to see if you’re getting more servings or any special ingredients that make it pricier. You can compare brands and their prices on sites like Amazon and iHerb. If a product sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Try not to purchase from an unknown brand just because it’s cheap or has claims that sound too good to be true. The same goes for online deals; always look at how reputable and long-standing the website is before making a purchase.
In general, look for retailers with high user ratings for customer service as well as competitive pricing on quality products. Also, avoid supplements made by companies located outside of North America, since those companies don’t have to follow US standards of manufacturing—which can mean they aren’t held accountable when their products don’t contain what they claim they do.
g. How long does it take to work?
If you’re expecting your probiotics to take immediate effect, you’ll be disappointed. Start with a daily intake for at least two weeks or more before judging how well they work. Most probiotics may need time to settle in and colonize.
The length of time it takes for them to start working depends on what you take, how much, and your unique biology. Some probiotics are better at creating lasting changes than others; consider how long you can give it before you want results.
If you don’t see any major change after taking it consistently over several weeks, that’s OK! It still might work—maybe you just have different biology from those who see benefits sooner. Everyone has a different microbiome, so just because one particular strain doesn’t work for one person doesn’t mean it won’t work for another individual.
h. Is it gluten-free?
Several probiotics contain gluten, so if you’re sensitive or allergic, be sure to read labels carefully. Make sure it doesn’t have any wheat, rye, or barley in it—these are all considered gluten grains.
Look for brands with gluten-free labels on them or ones that explicitly say they are made without these ingredients. It should also specifically state that it is free of antibiotics and hormones.
Probiotics are essential for a healthy gut and a strong immune system. For many people, probiotic foods are the go-to choice when they want to improve their digestive health and manage symptoms like gas and bloating, as well as diarrhea or constipation.
While many foods contain probiotics, there are specific foods that offer the best vegan probiotics. These may include tempeh, natto, kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut, plant-based yogurts, miso, kefir, kvass, and pickles.
These foods are also high in other beneficial nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. However, they may not be a preference for everybody for different reasons.
This may cause others to consider a capsule supplement. If that’s you, always ensure you use a reputable brand with more than 10 billion CFUs per dose. Also, go for a product that contains prebiotics, a type of fiber that nourishes good gut bacteria, helping them multiply and diversify.
I hope this article on the best vegan probiotics will help you make sound and wise decisions when choosing a good probiotic source for your health. If you would love to see more, join me on Youtube, Instagram, Facebook & Twitter!
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