Mostly from Jamie Lee Curtis Activia yogurt commercials, I know that probiotics are supposed to help with digestive issues. I don’t have gut issues and I haven’t heard much about the importance of probiotics from the plant-based community, so I haven’t incorporated them into my diet.
On Radio Lab the other day, however; I heard that probiotics may decrease feelings of anxiety and depression. Curious, I did some digging and found lots of research to support this claim. One double-blind placebo controlled study, for example, found that two probiotic strains alleviated symptoms of anxiety, depression and anger.
Should we ditch prozac and start eating coconut milk yogurt?
Not yet. Researchers haven’t yet determined whether you can get enough probiotics from food to improve your mood (in studies they took large doses in pills). Since probiotics are good for you, however; it can’t hurt to include more of them in your diet and find out for yourself if they’re a key to happiness. I’m certainly intrigued enough to do so anyway.
Vegan Sources of Probiotics
If you’re vegan, you can’t eat Activia, but there are other delicious ways to get active cultures. Here’s a few vegan sources:
This thick paste-like Japanese seasoning can be added to soups and other dishes or can even be spread on toast. If you’re using it in a soup, wait to add it until just before you remove it from the heat to keep from destroying the live cultures.
Kimchi is a fermented cabbage dish that can be served alone, mixed with rice or noodles or used to top veggie burgers or pizza. Click here for a Kimchi recipe.
Kombucha is a tea beverage made by adding probiotics and yeast to tea and sugar.
Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans and other grains that can be eaten like a veggie burger or crumbled into other dishes.
Soy and Coconut Milk Yogurt
Just like dairy yogurt, you can get probiotics from soy and coconut yogurt. Just make sure that the label notes that there are active cultures.
Soy and Coconut Milk Keifer
Keifer is a cultured milk product that you drink. Again, look for products that state that there are active cultures. Or you can make your own with Wild Juggling’s Blueberry Kefir recipe.
Raw sauerkraut, the kind you get in the refrigerated section, may contain up to 13 species of gut-friendly bacteria. But don’t cook it, as this will kill the little buggers.
Photo courtesy of Women’s Health Mag.