At DNAfit, we always recommend that people make an effort to get all their nutrients from food as much as possible, as opposed to supplements. If there is a food option for something, eat that instead. So we’ve compiled a list of some foods that naturally contain probiotics to aid in good gut health this summer. These are fermented food options that contain complex flavours with a taste that might be new to some people.
Yoghurt will always be the first point of call when it comes to food options that are high in probiotics, therefore promoting gut health. Still unsure what probiotics are and why we need them? They are live microorganisms aka "good bacteria" that aid our digestive system. Other than Yoghurt, you can find probiotics in different food sources that are easy to incorporate into your daily diet.
Here are our recommended picks that can be found in grocery stores or online (if you can’t make it yourself) to add to your plate this summer. The magic is all in the three healthy K foods:
This is a Korean staple that gained some popularity in the UK during lockdown - it's a food item that was historically favoured by those focusing on eating healthy because it's low in calories, amongst other health benefits. But lockdown seems to have brought its popularity to the mainstream.
In Korea, kimchi is an integral component of the national diet with a cultural significance. It is enjoyed with other delicacies, as a side dish, or as a snack by itself. Kimchi consists of a variety of veggies that include fermented cabbage, radish and cucumber with a combination of seasonings. The fermentation process is what gives the dish its enviable health credentials.
- Rich in vitamin K: this helps your blood clot and keeps your bones from becoming brittle. The fermentation process may make the nutrients found in kimchi more easily absorbed by your body.
- High in probiotics: since it's fermented, it has beneficial bacteria that are also found in yoghurt. This can help to improve your gut health, subsequently helping to reduce the symptoms of some gastrointestinal disorders like Irritable Bowel Syndrome and inflammation.
- Full of antioxidants: according to Kun-Young Park. et al, this may reduce the risk of common health conditions such as stroke, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
- May aid in weight loss: Kimchi is known to be low in calories while having a high fibre content, and this could help aid with weight loss.
According to popular belief, Kefir was developed in the northern Caucasus Mountains. Kefir is a fermented milk drink with a consistency that is similar to drinkable yoghurt - it is made up of a combination of bacteria and yeast fermentations. Like kimchi, its health benefits are due to its probiotic content.
It's typically made from cow’s milk but can also be produced from the milk of other animals, such as goats or sheep, or non-dairy milk. It is not recommended for people with a milk allergy but might be more suitable for those with lactose intolerance (speak to your healthcare provider).
- Improves bone health: Not all kefir are made equal. So if you need more calcium due to poor bone health or old age, we’d recommend making a full-fat Kefir - it's a great source of calcium and vitamin K. Vitamin K plays an important role in the metabolization of calcium in our bodies, this serves to improve bone density and potentially prevents fractures.
- Improves gut health: As a probiotic, kefir can help restore the balance of beneficial bacteria in your gut, with evidence to suggest that its properties can potentially alleviate some digestive problems like IBS.
- May aid in weight management: As we already know, the digestive system contains hundreds of microorganisms, most of which are beneficial bacteria. These bacteria are essential for metabolic processes that can aid in weight management when the body contains a diversity of them. With studies finding that people with obesity tend to have less diverse gut bacteria than leaner people, but also, some obese people with less diverse gut bacteria tend to gain more weight than people with obesity who have more diverse gut bacteria.
- The probiotics in kefir are also said to influence energy usage and appetite with properties that can also inhibit the absorption of dietary fat - potentially enabling the body to ‘harvest’ fewer calories.
Overall, Kefir is worth adding to your diet to improve your gut health if you’re out and about eating out, drinking a little more but also working out to manage your weight throughout the summer.
Kombucha has been popular in the UK for a few years now, originally from China and Japan. For those who don't know, Kombucha is a fermented fizzy tea made from yeast, sugar with either green or black tea. So depending on the type of tea you use in your kombucha, the health benefits will vary.
- Although the research on its probiotic benefits is still in the early stage, there is some evidence to suggest that it contains several species of lactic-acid bacteria which may have a probiotic function and thus health-promoting properties.
- With some research suggesting that Kombucha contains health benefits like promoting good gut health and aiding indigestion. Good gut health can also help support your immune system.
- Kombucha has also been identified as a drink with anti-inflammatory properties. Chronic inflammation is the cause of health conditions like heart disease, IBS, arthritis, diabetes and some other respiratory conditions. Kombucha isn't medication for any of the above, but you can drink it to complement what you're already taking (be sure to speak to your healthcare provider about it) [1, 2].
If you make your kombucha with green tea, you also get to reap the same health properties that the tea contains - thus providing the body with antioxidants to fight off free radicals. But like all things, consume it in moderation since it's made with added sugar. We recommend that you read the label for how much sugar is added to the kombucha - when you drink it, be sure you consider it when you calculate your overall sugar daily intake. Some people have been drinking it as an alternative to fizzy and soda drinks because it contains less sugar than other alternatives, but just remember to check the label to make sure that it is actually lower in sugar.
Remember, good gut health is wealth. When your digestive system functions well, that will ensure the rest of your body is healthy. Thus your gut bacteria have an influence on a number of bodily functions, including but not limited to: digestion, inflammation, weight gain, the production of vitamin K and even mental health. For this reason, it is always important to consider the microbiome when attempting to stay healthy, and listening to your body in accordance to the foods that you eat and how you react to them is one of the ways to do this.
As genetics also plays a role, there have been studies that look at the microbiome, as well as DNAfit’s Diet Fit genetic test which can educate you on your “ideal diet type”.