Becoming vegan can be bewildering, as there are so many hidden animal products in foods and drinks. Live probiotic cultures are often associated with dairy products, so many vegans ask if friendly bacteria are also vegan-friendly. The good news is that vegans can have probiotics!
Are All Probiotics Vegan?
Not all probiotics are vegan. Some contain ingredients from animal or dairy sources so you should check the label carefully to ensure your supplement meets your lifestyle.
Probiotics are the billions of good bacteria that live in and on our bodies and especially populate our intestines. These beneficial gut bacteria assist in many important functions in the body, including healthy digestion and bowel movements, the immune system, stress response, concentration, mood, and sleep.
The gut microbiome consists of these good probiotic bacteria as well as yeasts, fungi, and other microorganisms. To maintain a healthy gut and overall well-being, it’s important to keep a healthy bacterial balance and diversity.
Vegan Foods That Contain Probiotics
The majority of fermented foods are plant-based. Fermentation is an ancient technique for preserving food, which involves breaking down the carbs and sugar with bacteria and yeast. This promotes vitamin and bacteria production and creates probiotics.
Our favorite vegan fermented foods include:
- Kombucha – this is a fermented tea made using a fermentation colony.
- Tempeh – this is a traditional Indonesian soy-based food made from fermented soybeans.
- Kimchi – This is delicious fermented spicy food made using cabbage and spice.
- Miso –this is a traditional Japanese seasoning made using fermented soybeans.
- Pickles – this is a pickled veggie fermented in brine.
- Sauerkraut – this is rich in good bacteria strains Vitamin C, K, and Potassium.
Fermentation typically results in a strong, tart, or sour taste.
Should Vegans take Probiotic Supplements?
Just like with probiotics from dairy foods, consuming vegan probiotics helps your body maintain a healthy number of good bacteria in your gut. Vegan probiotics are free from animal products and technically, bacteria and yeast are living microorganisms. But they’re vegan. Unlike chickens or cows, these microorganisms aren’t sentient, and they don’t have nervous systems. So don’t worry, vegans can enjoy the finer foods in life, like sourdough bread and pickles.
This community of microorganisms is called the gut microbiome, gut microbiota, or gut flora. The ones that we usually find in food go by the names Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. You’ve probably seen new vegan products at the supermarket displayed made with live cultures on the packaging. Probiotics are everywhere, and with good reason, they help keep your body in good working condition. Here are just a few of their health benefits.
- Better gut health
- Enhanced immune system
- Reduced allergies and eczema
- Improved mental health and cognitive function
Yes, vegans can take probiotics. They are much more targeted than simply eating probiotic-rich foods. With a supplement, you know exactly which strains you’re getting and how many CFUs of each strain. Yogurt, Kombucha, kefir, tempeh, and miso are among the most common probiotic foods and drinks. Sometimes they’re referred to as fermented foods. These foods are foods and beverages that have gone through controlled growth of bacteria or yeast via a fermentation process.
Of course, incorporating food sources rich in probiotics adds variety to any meal plan, which is great for overall digestive health. However, it’s much more difficult to ensure that the probiotic bacteria are alive when you ingest them and that these live bacteria survive the passage through the acidic environment of the stomach and safely reach your intestines.
Certain probiotics on the market are tailored to specific health needs, so you can have more of an impact by choosing a supplement that meets your health needs and still allows you to maintain a vegan diet. One other thing to note about foods is that adding prebiotic foods such as bananas, asparagus, leeks, and garlic to your diet can help feed the beneficial probiotic bacteria and make them thrive in your gut.