Your gut health decides your overall well-being and health status. So maintaining a healthy gut is key to stay healthy and lead a balanced life. Your gut plays a crucial role in aiding digestion, absorption of nutrients, boosting immunity, inducing restful sleep and even managing your mental health. One way to keep your gut healthy is by including probiotics in your diet. So, let’s understand what probiotics are and how they help keep your gut healthy. Before we proceed, remember, that matters of health can be tricky and unpredictable. Sometimes, even after doing everything right you might fall sick or suffer from a minor or major illness that might call for hospitalisation draining your savings, for such emergencies make sure you have health insurance to cover the expenses. However, don’t forget that a healthy lifestyle can still help you bounce back after an illness or hospitalization in no time. So eat right, exercise and include probiotics in your diet.

What Are Probiotics?

Probiotics, often referred to as ‘good’ or ‘gut-friendly’ bacteria, are beneficial microorganisms that promote a balanced environment in the gut and support digestive health. Incorporating probiotic-rich foods into your diet can help replenish and maintain the balance of beneficial bacteria in your gut.  Also Read: Boost Your Digestive Health With These 6 Nutrient-Rich Foods

Here Are A Few Of The Foods That Can Help You Keep Your Gut Healthy:

1. Yoghurt

Yogurt or home-made dahi is perhaps one of the most well-known probiotic foods.  Its rich concentration of live and active cultures, including strains such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, known to do wonders for your gut health makes it top the list of probiotic foods. Greek yoghurt, kefir (fermented milk drink), and skyr (Icelandic yoghurt) are excellent options that provide probiotics along with protein and calcium. Alternatively, you can make simple curd at home to reap the benefits it offers.

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Yoghurt can do wonders for your gut health. Photo Credit: Istock

2. Paneer

Of the different kinds of cheese present in the market, cottage cheese or paneer is a rich source of probiotics. It is commonly used in Indian dishes and is high in protein too. Paneer, as a food is low in acid which encourages the growth of healthy bacteria. After fermentation, paneer’s nutritional value retains about 90% of the fat and protein, 50% of the minerals, and 10% of the lactose of the original milk. Other kinds of raw cheese such as Brie, and English Cheddar are also good sources of probiotics. However, processed or melted cheese is devoid of good bacteria, so choose your cheese wisely.

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Paneer encourages the growth of healthy bacteria. Photo Credit: Istock

3. Chaas Or Traditional Butter Milk

Like other dairy products chaas is also an excellent probiotic choice. It is the liquid left behind after churning butter from cream. It is a by-product of the natural fermentation process. It contains probiotic bacteria and has a tangy flavour similar to yoghurt. Having a glassful of chaas after meals aid digestion and ensure your systems are working in good condition. This drink especially helps to keep the gut health of the elderly in good shape as it is light on their stomach and soothing too. While diet changes can keep elderly people protected from infections and illnesses, get health insurance for parents to cover their medical expenses in times of need.

4. Kanji

It is a traditional fermented drink made during the summers from back carrots and beetroots along with black salt, mustard seeds, and sesame seeds. The drink is allowed to ferment for a week encouraging the growth of good bacteria. It is excellent for gut health and rich in vitamins like vitamin K, vitamin C, antioxidants, potassium, and manganese. Preparing kanji is one of the most easiest and effortless ways of getting enough probiotics for a good gut.

Kanji is a traditional fermented drink made during the summers

Kanji is a traditional fermented drink made during the summers. Photo Credit: Istock

5. Idli and Dosa

A staple breakfast favourite across the country these foods are made from fermented hard rice and lentils (especially urad dal). Being low in fat and calories the fermented batter is a decent source of probiotic microorganisms (carboxylic acid bacteria), antioxidants, and fibre. When served with chutneys and sambar, made from hard ingredients, pulses and other vegetables, the combo offers all macro and micronutrients in one platter.

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Idli and dosa are a staple breakfast favourite across the country Photo Credit: Istock

6. Panta Bhat or Pokal Bhat

This is a staple food consumed by many in the regions of West Bengal and Assam where cooked rice is soaked in water overnight to initiate the fermenting process creating an environment for good bacteria culture. This is how one can make the leftover rice a rich source of probiotics and eat it with a mild seasoning of mustard seeds, salt and green chillies. Pokal bhat is a similar dish consumed by locals of Odisha, Jharkhand, and Chhattisgarh.

7. Whole Wheat Bread

Apart from the gamut of options we have in Indian foods, whole wheat bread has also become a household staple probably for all the right reasons. Whole wheat bread is fermented to form small chain fatty acids and contains soluble fibres that are good for gut health. It also helps increase the number of good bacteria like bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus in the gut. Also, this kind of bread is devoid of fat and contains a lot of protein, vitamins, and minerals.

8. Apples

It is said that ‘An apple daily keeps the doctor away.’ This couldn’t be truer. Apples are a great source of dietary fibre and a rich source of probiotics too. Consuming apples regularly helps in digestion and encourages the growth of good bacteria in the gut.

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Apples are a great source of dietary fibre. Photo Credit: Istock

9. Green Peas

It is one of the rich sources of probiotics from the plant kingdom. According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology, green peas contain Leuconostoc mesenteroides, which is a potent probiotic, that initiates fermentation under low-temperature conditions. So, more reasons to generously add green peas to your salads, curries and subzis.

10. Pickles

Many people think pickles are bad for health because of the oil and salt present in them. However, in reality, pickles are an underrated and misunderstood food. They are a good source of probiotic food as they favour the growth of good bacteria. The vegetable or fruit present in the pickles like mango, carrot, lemon, garlic, or chilli soaked in oil along with salt, sugar, spices and herbs, allowed to ferment under the sun for days, presents the ideal condition for good bacteria to thrive. However, the same might not be true for store-bought pickles as they lack the presence of natural enzymes. So, invest some time in making them at home.

11. Dhokla

Made from fermented gram flour (besan), rice or pulses (dal), and yoghurt (Dahi) this Gujarati snack is a favourite among many. The fermentation process involved in making dhokla sets the stage for gut-friendly bacteria to grow and thrive.
Also Read: Probiotic Foods May Curb Allergies 

Dhokla is a steamed delicacy full of flavour and nutrients

Dhokla is a steamed delicacy full of flavour and nutrients. Photo Credit: iStock

Other Common Probiotic Foods:

Apart from the Indian probiotic foods, here is a list of other probiotic foods that you can include in your diet:

Kefir: Kefir is a fermented dairy product similar to yoghurt but with a thinner consistency and tangier flavour. It is made by fermenting milk with kefir grains, which are a combination of bacteria and yeast.

Sauerkraut: Sauerkraut is a traditional fermented cabbage dish that originated in Eastern Europe. It is made by fermenting shredded cabbage with salt and occasionally other vegetables or seasoning. During fermentation, lactic acid bacteria naturally present on the cabbage surface convert sugars into lactic acid, preserving the cabbage and creating a tangy, probiotic-rich condiment.

Kimchi: Kimchi is a staple of Korean cuisine, consisting of fermented vegetables (typically Napa cabbage and Korean radishes) seasoned with chilli pepper, garlic, ginger, and other spices. Like sauerkraut, kimchi undergoes lactic acid fermentation, resulting in a pungent, flavorful dish packed with probiotics.

Miso: Miso is a traditional Japanese seasoning made by fermenting soybeans with salt and koji (a type of fungus). The fermentation process can also involve other grains such as rice or barley. It contains probiotic bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, as well as beneficial enzymes that support digestion.

Tempeh: Tempeh is a fermented soybean product originating from Indonesia. It is made by fermenting whole soybeans. Tempeh is a nutrient-dense food rich in protein, fibre, vitamins, and minerals.

Kombucha: Kombucha is a tangy, effervescent beverage made by fermenting sweetened tea with bacteria and yeast. The fermentation process produces a fizzy drink with a slightly sour flavour.

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Photo Credit: Istock

Including Probiotic Foods In Your Diet 

Here are a few ways in which you can add probiotic foods to your diet:
1. Try to include a variety of fermented and cultured foods into your daily diet.
2. Start by adding small amounts of probiotic-rich foods to your meals and gradually increase your intake.
3. Experiment with different flavours and textures to find the probiotic foods that you enjoy the most.
4. Additionally, consider pairing probiotic foods with prebiotic-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes to further support gut health and promote a thriving microbiome.

The Take Home Message

Probiotic foods offer a natural and delicious way to support digestive health and maintain balanced gut health. By incorporating probiotic-rich foods you can nourish your gut with beneficial bacteria that promote optimal digestion, immune function, and overall well-being. While you do your bit to ensure your diet takes care of your gut health also get health insurance to safeguard your savings for medical emergencies that can happen anytime regardless of the precautions you take.  

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