Although borders around the world have reopened and travelling is back, many of us are still on the lookout and may be unable to travel due to various reasons. Do not be dismayed however – As we bring you around the globe in this article, to try the different foods around the world that are good for your gut!
Below are some foods unique to their own country that will not only give you a taste of their culture, but also improve your gut health. These foods can benefit the gut because they contain “probiotics”.
What are probiotics?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), probiotics are defined as live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host¹.
These probiotics compete with bad bacteria for essential nutrients and living spaces, displacing them from the gut. Some are also able to produce a substance called lactic acid which encourages the growth of good bacteria and kills off harmful bacteria, promoting better bacteria composition in your gut. This balanced gut microflora prevents against an upset stomach and gastrointestinal infections.
Now that you have a better understanding about probiotics and how they help the gut, let us depart for our first destination in the search of foods rich in probiotics!
1. Food rich in probiotics — Japan’s natto
Our first destination is the all-time Singaporean favorite — Japan.
Natto is a traditional Japanese food made by fermenting soybeans with a probiotic known as Bacillus subtilis². When fermented with soybeans, this probiotic produces a substance called nattokinase within the soybeans. Nattokinase can maintain a good balance of bacteria in our gut microflora, thus, promoting good gut function³. Bacillus subtilis probiotic itself also helps to protect our intestinal walls from damage⁴. Though natto is infamous for its stringy, slimy texture and its pungent smell, its benefits for the gut are undeniable.
2. Food rich in probiotics — Korea’s kimchi
Annyeonghaseyo! Our second destination is right beside the first, South Korea!
With its national food that most of us are familiar with — Kimchi.
Kimchi is a side dish and is frequently eaten by Koreans alongside many of their main dishes. There are many types of Kimchi and their ingredients may vary, but the most traditional one is made with napa cabbages. Korean chili powder is used as the main seasoning here. After seasoning the cabbages, they are left in a sealed container to ferment - similar to natto.
This fermentation process allows for the production of probiotics in Kimchi, some of which include Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB)⁵. These LABs produce lactic acid in the gut which can encourage the growth of good bacteria and kill off bad bacteria, thus, promoting a balanced gut microflora. Such LABs also aid digestion and absorption of food for better gut function⁶.
If you love something crunchy, spicy, salty, and tangy, you can try giving Kimchi a shot!
3. Food rich in probiotics — Germany’s Sauerkraut
Let us now move away from Asia into Europe, specifically Germany. Germany’s gut benefitting food also happens to be one of their national dishes, which is Sauerkraut. Sauerkraut, like Kimchi, is also made from cabbages, though it is made from other varieties instead of napa cabbage.
This dish is made by shredding the cabbage and massaging it with salt. During the process, liquid is drawn out by the salt and mixes with it to form a salty brine. This brine ferments together with the cabbage in a sealed container for about 1-4 weeks before it is ready to be consumed.
This fermentation process also produces LABs which are good for gut health.
Sauerkraut is also rich in dietary fiber, which can soften your stools, increase your stool frequency, and relieve constipation⁷.
If you are looking for something less spicy and salty, Sauerkraut may fit your taste buds more than Kimchi. It also requires less ingredients, so it is easier to prepare.
4. Food rich in probiotics — USA’s Sourdough bread
Our last destination of focus is the United States of America, specifically San Francisco, where we turn our attention to the Sourdough bread. Though this bread did not originate from San Francisco, it has become synonymous with the city’s name, at least in the United States.
This bread is made by fermenting its dough using wild bacteria Lactobacillaceae and yeast. Lactobacillaceae is a family of LAB, and fermenting it produces lactic acid, giving the bread its distinct sour taste.
This lactic acid also promotes the growth of good bacteria in the gut and kills off harmful bacteria, keeping the gut microflora balanced. Sourdough bread has also been associated with reducing abdominal discomfort and bloating⁸.
The next time you head to the grocery store to buy bread, consider switching from your usual bread to Sourdough bread! You never know if you might enjoy it more and it is a healthier choice.
Although the foods mentioned above is high in probiotics which are good for gut health, not all loves their taste.
In this case, you can consider probiotic supplements to boost your gut health. These supplements contain more probiotics than the foods mentioned and do not have the fermented taste that many dislikes.
One such supplement is Pro-Gut™, which is a convenient multi-strain probiotic that is beneficial for gut and overall health.
Pro-Gut™ contains Lactic Acid Bacteria mentioned earlier that can promote a well-balanced gut microflora to prevent against gastrointestinal disorders.
Pro-Gut™ also does not need to be refrigerated, therefore, is convenient to bring around no matter where you go.
Thus, if those foods are not your cup of tea, try Pro-Gut™!
We have travelled around the world in this article, but look out for next week’s article, where we focus on foods rich in probiotics that are more commonly found in our local grocery stores!
1. Hill, C., Guarner, F., Reid, G., Gibson, G.R., Merenstein, D.J., Pot, B., Morelli, L., Canani, R.B., Flint, H.J., Salminen, S., Calder, P.C. and Sanders, M.E. (2014). Expert consensus document. The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics consensus statement on the scope and appropriate use of the term probiotic. Nature reviews. Gastroenterology & hepatology, 11(8), pp.506–14.
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6. BC Dairy. (2010). The Probiotic Effects of Lactic Acid Bacteria. [online] Available at: https://bcdairy.ca/the-probiotic-effects-of-lactic-acid-bacteria/.
7. Burkitt, D.P., Walker, A.R.P. and Painter, N.S. (1972). EFFECT OF DIETARY FIBRE ON STOOLS AND TRANSIT-TIMES, AND ITS ROLE IN THE CAUSATION OF DISEASE. The Lancet, 300(7792), pp.1408–1411.
8. Dimidi, E., Cox, S.R., Rossi, M. and Whelan, K. (2019). Fermented Foods: Definitions and Characteristics, Impact on the Gut Microbiota and Effects on Gastrointestinal Health and Disease. Nutrients, [online] 11(8), p.1806.
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