Always Constipated Or Cirit-Birit? Improve Your Gut Health With These 11 Probiotic Foods

Get your daily dose of probiotics at your local mamak!

Cover image via Chitra's Food Book Hungry Forever (Edited by SAYS)

Do you get constipated or have diarrhea very often?

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With all the amazing Malaysian food we stuff our tummies with, it's inevitable for us to get the occasional stomach upset. However, if you regularly experience gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and heartburn, it may be a sign of an unhealthy gut.

Your gut makes up 80% of your immune system, and is essential to your health - both physically and mentally

According to Healthline, "A healthy gut contributes to a strong immune system, heart health, brain health, improved mood, healthy sleep, and effective digestion, and it may help prevent some cancers and autoimmune diseases."

Did you know your digestive tract is made up of trillions of bacteria? However, not every kind of bacteria is harmful. In fact, probiotics are the good kind of bacteria in your gut, and they can do wonders for your digestive health.

Here are some probiotic-rich foods you can easily add to your diet:

1. Tempeh

One of the staples at your local nasi campur spot, tempeh is packed with probiotics. It is made by fermenting soy beans and shaping it into a cake-form. Delicious on its own or stir-fried into dishes, tempeh is a great way to get your probiotics fix.

However, if you're having the runs, you'll want to stay away from the overly-spicy sambal goreng tempeh! ;)

2. Kimchi

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Kimchi is made by fermenting vegetables like cabbage and daikon radish with probiotic lactic acid bacteria. Besides its digestive benefits, kimchi also helps regulate cholesterol and promote weight loss.

The next time you're out for Korean food, help yourself to an extra serving of kimchi - your stomach will love you for it!

3. Sauerkraut

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Similar to kimchi, sauerkraut is a popular condiment made with fermented cabbage. Usually used as a topping on hotdogs or as a side dish, sauerkraut is made by brining cabbage in salt water.

Sauerkraut can be higher in sodium due to its salt content, so keep this in mind if you're watching your sodium intake.

4. Yoghurt

Yoghurt is one of the best sources of probiotics. It naturally contains a lot of friendly bacteria that can strengthen your digestive tract, but not all yoghurt is created equal.

Look for yoghurt that contains live probiotics and try to avoid ones with added sugar or flavouring to get the best results.

5. Cultured milk drinks

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Remember sipping on Vitagen, Yakult, Nutrigen, or other cultured milk drinks as a kid?

Turns out they actually help improve your gut health! Manufacturers include billions of strains of probiotics into each small bottle, making it the perfect go-to drink all day long.

6. Tapai

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Somewhat of an acquired taste, tapai is made by fermenting white rice or glutinous rice, and sometimes cassava or sweet potato. Tapai has a sweet or sour taste, and is slightly alcoholic - it can be fermented further to make rice wine.

Thanks to the fermentation process, tapai is packed with probiotics that can help with digestion and give your immune system a boost!

7. Pickles

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Pickles are actually a great source of probiotics that can help improve your gut health. However, this only applies to pickles made with salt and water, because pickles made with vinegar do not contain live probiotics.

The next time you think of removing the pickles on your cheeseburger, ask your server to add a few more slices instead!

8. Miso soup

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Nothing beats sipping a piping hot bowl of miso soup on a chilly day! However, what you may not know is that miso contains probiotics that may help ease digestive problems including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

If you're cooking miso soup at home, just make sure to add in the miso paste last, as boiling it will kill the live, active cultures of bacteria.

9. Natto

Not for the faint of heart, natto is usually eaten as a side dish or added into sushi rolls and rice bowls. While popular in Japan, not many people outside of Japan can take the pungent taste and slimy texture of natto.

Nonetheless, this fermented soybean dish is full of probiotics, protein, vitamins, and minerals. Most Japanese restaurants in Malaysia serve natto, so if you're feeling adventurous, just give it a try!

10. Idli and thosai

Who knew you could get your daily dose of probiotics from your next door mamak? Many South Indian dishes like idli and thosai are prepared by fermenting rice and lentils. This makes these dishes full of good bacteria.

Instead of indulging in nasi kandar or roti bomb, consider going for one of these healthier options your stomach will thank you for.

11. Lassi

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If you're feeling a tad bit guilty after having three servings of banana leaf rice, a lassi will do just the trick! Not only is lassi full of probiotics, it can also help reduce your stomach's acidity levels and aid digestion by promoting digestive enzymes.

Lassi is a traditional Indian probiotic yoghurt with the consistency of a smoothie - you can enjoy it salty, sweet, or with other ingredients like mint leaves, mango, or strawberry.

Besides probiotics, you should also supplement your diet with prebiotic-rich foods

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While probiotics are the good bacteria in your gut, prebiotics act as food or fuel to keep the good bacteria going. Ultimately, you need both probiotics and prebiotics, because they work hand in hand to support your entire digestive system.

Prebiotics are often found in the non-digestible fiber in certain fruits and vegetables like bananas, apples, berries, sweet potatoes, and asparagus. If you love dark chocolate, you'll be happy to know that cocoa powder is also a good source of prebiotics.

Tired of having to deal with constipation and diarrhea?

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Treat your gut a little today! All it takes is choosing to eat healthy, one meal at a time. Trust us, your tummy will thank you in the long run! :)

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