Posted on December 16 2019
If you are new to veganism or have decided to go dairy free, one of the problems you will face with is an upset stomach. Even if you have nothing to do with veganism but just decided to change your food habits all of a sudden, this is a common side effect. As a fitness expert I often have new clients face this problem and may even temporarily increase body water retention and bloating sensation even though they go from a very unhealthy junk food diet to clean eating. One of the reasons this could happen is because of the lack of probiotics in your diet. Probiotics, or gut friendly- good bacteria are live microorganisms living in your gut that help your gut run smoothly.
Probiotics have gained a lot of attention recently among supplementation companies; however, there are many quick fixes and super foods you can use around the house to keep your gut health on fleek. An unhealthy gut could lead to various other effect in the body such as inflammation, acne, poor immune system, difficulty maintaining weight, acid reflux etc. So make sure to include these foods at least once a day to keep your good bacteria count high.
1) Tofu: Tofu is made from curdling soy beans, basically like paneer (cottage- cheese) is made by fermenting cow’s milk. Many may argue that tofu is one of the healthiest food known to man. Mimicking the amino acid profile of meat (protein quality) without all the negative effects of eating meat, it is a haven for vegetarians/ vegans. However, soy and soy products have not been in the industry for longer than 100 years so really not enough research has even been done to fully understand its benefits or long term side effects. Anything over consumed, including water leads to side effects, but I highly suggest clients to include tofu as part of their diet in moderation. Moderation would mean anywhere between 50-100 grams per day based on your body weight and health goals.
What makes tofu/ tempeh number 1 on our list is the microorganisms that grow within it during the process of fermentation. Research shows that the longer tofu is allowed to ferment, the more powerful it is in terms of its anti- oxidant and probiotic properties. Not only is tofu healthy for your gut, but has been linked to various studies including its cancer fighting properties, benefits on cardio vascular health etc.
2) Spirulina: Spirulina is actually an algea that can be consumed by humans. Algea can be considered as the oldest food on earth, so in a way spirulina is the first food on earth. Packed with bio- available nutrients/ vitamins/ iron/ antioxidants and pro- biotics, spirulina can be considered one of the most powerful foods on planet earth. Fun fact, spirullina will also help reduce cholesterol, act as a mood booster by balancing chemicals in the brain and help promote weight loss! It is suggested to have no more than 4 grams per day of spirullina however, due to its high vitamin content that may cause an overdose in the bodies of healthy individuals. Best time to have it would be post workout or with your mid- morning snack in powdered form mixed with nothing but water.
3) Kombucha: Kombucha is said to have originated from China and is sort of a tea fermented with yeast and bacteria. You notice the trend here now, most vegan probiotics have live yeast and bacteria. This makes them more effective than supplemental probiotics since the bacteria in the supplemental probiotics are mostly dead. Celebrities including Lidsay Lohan and Madonna swear by Kombucha for its antioxidant and detoxifying properties. Because of the high quantity of probiotics, Kombucha also is said to improve with digestion and stomach ulcers. Like any other tea, I would not recommend you to have this empty stomach, but for your mid morning or evening snack along with a trail mix or fruit.
4) Kimchi: Remember seeing those spicy cabbage salad often served as a table pickle in Asian restaurants. Who would have thought those tangy and tasty cabbage slices would act as a probiotic! Kimchi originates from Korea and traditionally a blend of cabbage with fermented spices like vinegar, ginger, garlic etc. Traditionally Koreans eat kimchi with every meal and for the reason. These yummy fermented cabbage (or other veggies like carrots and raddish sometimes used) are not only high in fibre but very low in fat. They act as an excellent probiotic, loading the gut with good bacteria and aid in digestion of the meal. No wonder obesity rates are at a steep low in Korea.
5) Dark Chocolates: Now this is a little tricky. Enough with the probiotics, lets take a minutes to understand pre-biotics. While probiotic foods introduce healthy bacteria to your gut, pre- biotic foods “feed” the existing good bacteria in your gut, making them multiply in numbers. As important as it is to consume probiotics, the benefits of pre- biotics cannot be ignored. Resent research leads to prove that dark chocolate contains some pre- biotics along with a little fiber content that feeds the good bacteria, making your gut itself a fermenting ground. Other foods that contain pre- biotics are raw onions, garlic, asparagus, chickpeas and psyllium husk powder (isabgol). It is important that these be added to your diet along with probiotics a few times per week as well!
About 100 trllion bacteria call your gut their home. Including food that better the ratio of the good bacteria vs the bad bacteria could be a cure to various other problems such as ache, obesity, low immunity and digestive disorders. After all, a healthy garden needs healthy soil!