The human body is filled with beneficial bacteria, most of which reside in the gut. They are necessary to help the body function properly, keeping the individual healthy. It’s thought that having a healthy gut microbiome is linked to overall health, including physical and mental health.
Some people take probiotics, which are foods and supplements high in healthy bacteria. The idea is to support the body’s internal microbiome, thus promoting wellness. Typically, people consume probiotics in the form of yogurt, but as a dairy product, it’s not vegan-friendly.
This article explores some of the best vegan probiotics, including a variety of plant-based food sources packed with healthy bacteria.
Where to Find Vegan Probiotics
Probiotics are living microorganisms that could provide some benefits to human health. There are hundreds of different bacteria included in this category, but the most common are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria. In some cases, certain types of yeast can also be probiotics, though it is more commonly restricted to bacteria.
Plenty of vegan-friendly foods contain probiotics. Typically, they are fermented foods in which live cultures – a.k.a bacteria – have had time to develop. While some people may turn their noses up at the notion of fermentation, some of these foods are undeniably tasty, such as sourdough bread.
It’s also common for people to take probiotic supplements, which is ideal if you dislike the foods on this list. Whether you work probiotics into your diet or take supplements, there are vegan-friendly options available.
The list below considers the best source of probiotics for vegans, with a variety of options to suit all tastes.
Best Vegan Probiotic
There are many sources of probiotics for vegans, including dietary sources and man-made supplements. Some of these foods are an acquired taste, while others are fairly bland and easy to incorporate into one’s lifestyle.
Here are some of the best probiotic sources for vegans.
Sauerkraut is a form of fermented cabbage commonly found in Eastern European cuisine, including German. Cooks make it by finely slicing cabbage and allowing it to ferment in brine (highly concentrated saltwater) to bring out sour, bitter flavors.
You can find sauerkraut in health food stores, foreign supermarkets, or you can make it at home.
During the fermentation process, Lactobacillus bacteria convert the cabbage’s sugar into lactic acid. As the sweetness is replaced by sourness, the crunchiness of the cabbage remains, making it an excellent ingredient for a variety of dishes.
Sauerkraut probiotic products are ideal because not only do they contain healthy bacteria, but also vitamin C, vitamin K, and potassium. You can find sauerkraut in health food stores, foreign supermarkets, or you can make it at home. Make sure to buy an unpasteurized product, however, since the pasteurization process can destroy the probiotics.
Another fermented cabbage dish is kimchi; it’s spicier and hails from East Asia. Making kimchi is very similar to making sauerkraut, except the brine also includes spices and may feature other vegetables. The result is a hot, sour, and flavor-packed ingredient that goes with numerous dishes, including ramen and curries.
As a fermented food, kimchi is an excellent probiotic. Again, you can purchase kimchi probiotics in health stores, but many find it rewarding to make their own at home.
When eating out, vegans should check that the kimchi served in restaurants does not contain any seafood products.
Any vegetables fermented in brine can become worthy probiotics. There are lots of delicious, pickled vegetables, including cucumber, red bell pepper, and carrots. In theory, consumers can pickle anything they want. Going down the kimchi route, it’s also possible to add herbs and spices to the brine to add extra flavor.
The benefit of pickled vegetables is that the user also gets to consume added nutrients. Select a high-nutrient vegetable like cauliflower if you want to make the best probiotic pickles.
It’s worth noting that pickles are high in salt and can increase your sodium intake. While they’re great for snacking on, users should limit their intake of pickles in order to limit sodium.
Kombucha is a hot topic right now, and it’s easy to see why once you try it. It’s a type of fermented tea that contains a particular fermentation colony called SCOBY. It stands for symbiotic cultures of bacteria and yeasts.
Kombucha tea is very popular now and is found in numerous stores. However, it’s also possible to make it at home using SCOBY starter kits.
Notably, kombucha usually contains low amounts of alcohol alongside probiotic organisms. As a result, it may not be suitable for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding. In most cases, it’s less than 1%, but it may be higher.
Another beverage is water kefir. It is made using water kefir grains, which ferment sugar water, juice, or coconut water to make the beverage. It’s important to use the right water kefir probiotic strains when attempting to make this beverage at home.
The benefit of water kefir is that it has a mild flavor, as opposed to some other probiotic foods.
Vegans should steer clear of milk kefir, which is a dairy-based alternative.
Tempeh is a soy-based food, usually considered similar to tofu. However, tempeh involves the fermentation of soybeans, which is why it qualifies as a probiotic. Not only is tempeh rich in bacteria, but it’s also full of protein, which is excellent news for vegans.
Tempeh probiotics are great because the user can consume this ingredient in a variety of dishes. It’s possible to add it to salads, wraps, stir-fries, burgers, and more, making it a really versatile probiotic ingredient.
Sourdough bread is renowned for the slightly tangy taste it has, which comes from fermentation. Traditional sourdough bread is made by combining flour and water to make a sourdough starter, which is then fermented for several days before being baked into bread.
Sourdough bread with probiotics is more traditional, and users can make it this way at home, but not all loaves contain fermented bacteria. If buying sourdough, check the ingredients to learn if it contains probiotics.
Miso paste is another fermented product used in Asian cuisine, known for its umami flavor. Many people enjoy miso in soup, although it can also be added to a variety of vegan dishes. Miso probiotic products can be purchased in a variety of health food stores and Asian supermarkets.
Many people enjoy miso in soup, although it can also be added to a variety of vegan dishes.
Notably, hot temperatures can kill probiotic bacteria. So, when making miso soup, it’s essential to use warm water so as not to kill off the beneficial probiotics.
Non-dairy probiotics typically include fortified dairy alternatives. Essentially, this refers to dairy-free yogurts using soy or almond. In some cases, companies will add bacteria to their plant-based yogurts in order to make them probiotics.
Brands usually advertise their products as probiotics if this is the case, but you can always check the label for the names of probiotic bacteria if you are unsure.
Finally, there are lots of vegan probiotic supplements on the market. While not all probiotic supplements are vegan-friendly, there are many that are. You can pick up such supplements both at health food stores and online.
Please note that the FDA does not regulate probiotics, so it’s essential to do your research before purchasing any supplements.
Summary on Best Vegan Probiotics
There are lots of potential benefits to taking probiotics, but vegans can’t always use the same products as everyone else. Thankfully, vegan probiotics exist in many foods and beverages, and there are also supplements available.
It’s worth mentioning that the research on probiotics typically uses high doses. As a result, there is no guarantee that consumers will reap these benefits by consuming fermented foods. Nevertheless, having a healthy, varied diet that includes some of these foods can have a positive impact on an individual’s health.
For higher amounts of bacteria, though, supplements are worth investigating.
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