The 15 Best Probiotic Vegan Foods

Our gut is a complex and interesting ecosystem, in which trillions of bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms reside.

Probiotics are beneficial microorganisms that help increase populations of good bacteria in the gut and have been shown to help with:

  • Improving digestive function1
  • Managing type 2 diabetes and glucose tolerance2
  • Weight management
  • Autoimmune conditions3
  • Inflammatory diseases4
  • Skin health5
  • Our digestive system is exposed to the outside world, with what we consume being the single largest driver for gut health.6

    Dairy products may be the first foods that spring to mind when sourcing probiotic foods, however there are many delicious plant-based sources to include in your daily diet.

    Read on for a list of 15 of the best probiotic vegan foods!

    The Best 15 Probiotic Vegan Foods

    1) Sauerkraut

    A favourite in German cuisine, Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage and is a tangy accompaniment to many dishes.

    Lactic acid fermentation from this process creates beneficial Lactobacillus strains, studied for their antimicrobial benefits.7

    Probiotic properties of sauerkraut have also been shown to improve recovery from post-performance fatigue in athletes.8

    2) Kimchi

    Another plant-based food source fermented by probiotic lactic acid is Kimchi.

    This Korean food staple includes many fermented vegetables and occasionally also includes garlic and pickled ginger for added nutritional benefits.9

    Research has shown that Kimchi improves cholesterol, boosts immune health, and promotes healthy skin production.

    3) Miso

    Miso is a paste, popular in Japanese cooking and is made from fermenting soya beans and barley.

    Miso soup has even been shown to reduce blood pressure by reducing the sympathetic (fight or flight) response.10

    4) Kombucha

    Kombucha is a non-alcoholic beverage that contains beneficial bacteria and yeast, working symbiotically to populate the gut with healthy microbes.

    Kombucha tea has been shown to have potent antimicrobial properties, helping to reduce the growth of pathogenic bacteria in the gut.11

    5) Green Olives

    Green olives are unripe olives, picked just before full maturation.

    They are a rich source of Lactobacillus strains and have been shown to have antifungal properties.12

    6) Coconut Kefir

    A plant-based friendly alternative to dairy kefir, coconut kefir is made from fermenting kefir grains in coconut milk.

    Kefir is full of potent digestive enzymes which help improve digestion, as well as being antimicrobial, and has even been shown to speed wound healing.13

    Kefir has also been shown to reduce Helicobacter Pylori (a pathogenic bacteria) growth.14

    7) Tempeh

    Tempeh is a highly digestible source of fermented soy. This vegan option is rich in proteins and phytoestrogens, making it a great meat-free option.

    Fermented food sources such as tempeh, when consumed regularly in children have been shown to markedly reduce cancer outcomes in later years.15

    8) Natto

    Natto is a popular Japanese food, produced from soybeans fermented with Bacillus subtilis var. natto.

    Natto is known for its potent smell and pungent taste with a sticky slimy texture and contains 100 times more vitamin K2 than cheese!16

    9) Umeboshi Plums

    Known as a well-loved energy snack for Samurai warriors, Umeboshi plums are salty-sweet plums, thought to have been eaten for their immune-boosting, cold-fighting health benefits.

    Umeboshi plums are also rich in potassium, manganese, and fiber, making them a nutritious and gut-friendly sweet snack.

    10) Sourdough

    Sourdough is a nutritionally rich bread with a distinctly earthy and nutty taste.
    Lactic acid fermentation of wheat and rye is what makes sourdough a probiotic-rich and popular brunch option.17

    11) Beet Kvass

    A Russian tonic made from beets, sea salt, and water, Beet Kvass is a potent vegan probiotic drink.

    The skin of beetroots undergoes Lacto-fermentation to populate healthy bacteria.
    Beetroot has also been known to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and cardioprotective benefits.18

    12) Water Kefir

    Another vegan alternative to traditional milk kefir, water kefir is made from fermenting kefir grains in water with a fruit extract/solution.
    Water kefir also makes an excellent starter when making sourdough.

    13) Supplements

    Although technically not a food source, supplements are an effective and dose-measured way of ingesting good bacteria.

    Produced from the same beneficial microorganisms found in food sources, supplements could be an easy alternative to ensure you are giving your gut a daily boost.

    14) Fortified Coconut Yoghurt

    There are many fortified coconut (and soy) yogurt options on the market, with live cultures being added to them to boost probiotic value.

    The addition of coconut to live cultures have been shown to boost its antimicrobial and anti-fungal properties.19

    15) Pickled Gherkins

    Pickled gherkins, a surprisingly nutritious and vegan chip shop snack.
    Culture fermentation of Lactobacillus increases the probiotic and nutritional value of gherkins.20

    Pickled gherkins also contain potassium, iron, and vitamins A, C & K.

    References

    1. Prebiotics and Probiotics in Digestive Health - PubMed (nih.gov)

    2. Relationship between gut microbiota, probiotics, and type 2 diabetes mellitus - PubMed (nih.gov)

    3. Intestinal dysbiosis and probiotic applications in autoimmune diseases - PubMed (nih.gov)

    4. Intestinal microbiota, probiotics and prebiotics in inflammatory bowel disease - PubMed (nih.gov)

    5. Impact of prebiotics and probiotics on skin health - PubMed (nih.gov)

    6. Gut Microbiome: Profound Implications for Diet and Disease - PubMed (nih.gov)

    7. Putative probiotic lactic acid bacteria isolated from sauerkraut fermentations - PubMed (nih.gov)

    8. Probiotics and athletic performance: a systematic review - PubMed (nih.gov)

    9. Health benefits of kimchi (Korean fermented vegetables) as a probiotic food - PubMed (nih.gov)

    10. Review of the health benefits of habitual consumption of miso soup: focus on the effects on sympathetic nerve activity, blood pressure, and heart rate - PubMed (nih.gov)

    11. Kombucha tea fermentation: Microbial and biochemical dynamics - PubMed (nih.gov)

    12. Characterization of Probiotic Properties of Antifungal Lactobacillus Strains Isolated from Traditional Fermenting Green Olives - PubMed (nih.gov)

    13. Antimicrobial and healing activity of kefir and kefiran extract - PubMed (nih.gov)

    14. Fermented Foods: Definitions and Characteristics, Impact on the Gut Microbiota and Effects on Gastrointestinal Health and Disease - PubMed (nih.gov)

    15. Health impact of childhood and adolescent soy consumption - PubMed (nih.gov)

    16. Usual dietary intake of fermented soybeans (Natto) is associated with bone mineral density in premenopausal women - PubMed (nih.gov)

    17. Sourdough lactic acid bacteria: Exploration of non-wheat cereal-based fermentation - ScienceDirect

    18. The potential benefits of red beetroot supplementation in health and disease - PubMed (nih.gov)

    19. Coconut Bio-yoghurt Phytochemical-chemical and Antimicrobial-microbial Activities - PubMed (nih.gov)

    20. Culture fermentation of Lactobacillus in traditional pickled gherkins: Microbial development, chemical, biogenic amine and metabolite analysis - PubMed (nih.gov)

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