Yogurt is often the first item to come to mind when it comes to probiotic-rich foods. While certainly a healthy source, this isn’t an option for some people, particularly those who are lactose-intolerant or abiding by a strict vegan diet. Fortunately, there are other foods beyond yogurt that contain ample beneficial bacteria. Expand your options with these dairy free probiotics.
Most people have heard of sauerkraut and know that it goes great with hotdogs but otherwise know very little about this dish. Sauerkraut originated in Germany and is essentially fermented cabbage. Testing1 shows this food contains the probiotic strains Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus brevis, Pediococcus pentosaceus and Leuconostoc plantarum.
Since sauerkraut comes from cabbage, it’s also naturally rich in other vitamins and minerals. This includes a generous heaping of vitamins C and K, iron, manganese and potassium. Plus, you can store sauerkraut for months on end before it goes bad.
No Korean dish is complete without kimchi. Admittedly, this food isn’t for everyone; it has a strong and distinct smell that some people find off-putting. While various spices and herbs go into kimchi, the primary ingredient is usually pickled Napa cabbage.
Studies2 show that kimchi contains many of the same benefits found in yogurt and other probiotic-rich foods. Researchers found that it has fibrolytic effects as well as anti-cancer and anti-obesity properties. The last point just might explain the lower obesity rate of most Asians compared to Westerners.
3. Dill Pickles
Pickles are cucumbers that have been pickled in a salt solution. Read the labels when buying jarred pickles. A lot of the brands contain vinegar brine, which inhibits probiotic growth. Pickles go great with grass-fed hamburger, especially if you want to add some crunchy tang to your meat.
We should add that pickle juice also contains a good deal of probiotics and additional antioxidants. Yes, we know the idea of drinking pickle juice might make your stomach churn, but it’s just as good for your gut as the pickles themselves.
4. Brined Olives
Look for olives packed in brine and not water. Olives are a popular Mediterranean food that is eaten as is or used as a topping for Greek salads. They also happen to be high in multiple Lactobacillus strains.
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Among some of its benefits, studies3 show that consuming olives may protect the gut against gastric cancer and peptic ulcers. It doesn’t matter whether you go for black or green olives. Their nutritional content is more or less identical.
Microalgae consist of a mix of water-based plants, such as spirulina, chlorella and cyanobacteria. Studies show that algae consumption increases the number of Lactobacillus probiotics in the intestinal tracts.
Microalgae is also sold in powder form. You can add it to just about any food, including plain water. Some people add it to desserts like ice cream and cupcakes to add nutritional value to otherwise mostly empty calories.
6. Coconut Kefir
Traditional kefir is made from milk, making it a dairy-based product. Coconut kefir, on the other hand, contains the same probiotic concentrations minus the lactose. This makes for a tasty drink especially if you add a bit of lime juice and stevia.
We should note that most lactose-intolerant people can actually tolerate dairy kefir. Coconut kefir is an option for those that are extremely sensitive and experience stomach upset even from skim milk.
Kombucha is a form of fermented green or black tea. Kombucha is also known as mushroom tea due to the mushroom-like film that overtakes the surface during the fermentation process. The film consists of a living colony of beneficial bacteria often called SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast).
We recommend going with the green tea variety, which also has all the antioxidants and bioactive compounds of the beloved beverage. In addition, kombucha also contains the same acetic acid found in vinegar. Studies4 show that acetic acid has antimicrobial activity and may kill harmful foreign pathogens.
Probiotic Sources to Avoid
There are also some dairy free ones that we do NOT recommend. This includes anything made from soy, such as miso, tempeh and natto. These are all Asian dishes made at least in part from fermented soybeans. We are not fans of soybeans due to their highly estrogenic properties.
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Vegans and those unable to digest lactose often turn to soy-based products as an alternative. However, there are still plenty of dairy free options that do not include soy in any shape or form. We’re not suggesting that you can never consume miso soup or tempeh, but they should not be a staple in your diet, especially not when there are so many other probiotic-rich options.
Dairy Free Probiotics Are Aplenty
As you can see, your options go beyond dairy-based foods like yogurt. If you happen not to like fermented foods, you can always opt for a probiotic supplement like Floracil50. Whether via food or supplementation, you have options if for one reason or another you can’t or won’t consume dairy.