Busy schedules, erratic work timings, irregular meals and easy access to restaurant food has the average urban Indian’s eating habits going haywire. The rise in processed and fast food consumption has many of us not getting the nutrients we need to keep fit and healthy. It’s no wonder then that you hear of stomach complaints from the young and old. And while some tummy issues can be serious and require medical care, a lot of them can be healed through a healthy, wholesome diet.
Natural probiotics can support a healthy digestive system. Your gut is incredibly important to your overall health and wellbeing. From supporting a healthy brain, heart and immune function to enhancing mental wellbeing, balancing hormone levels and even helping to keep your skin flawless, science is increasingly showing the vital role your gut microbes play in keeping you fit. We take a closer look at these useful probiotics and how they can help improve your gut health.
Many lifestyle factors can cause an unhealthy gut, including high-stress levels, poor sleep, eating sugary and processed foods and taking antibiotics. Some common symptoms to watch out for are regular bloating and constipation, heartburn, constant fatigue, skin irritation, an upset tummy, sleep disruption and increased sugar cravings.
Your gut contains bacteria that help you digest food and release nutrients your body can use. But sometimes the balance of bacteria in your gut can be disturbed. This is where probiotics can help. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeast which are thought to help restore the balance of bacteria in your gut. You can consume them in your food or as supplements.
Probiotic supplements can support good gut health, but there are lots you can do just by making a few changes to your diet. Here are some natural probiotics to help restore your gut.
Yoghurt. Natural yoghurt (or dahi) contains good bacteria. Avoid flavoured varieties which can be highly processed and contain a lot of sugar. Instead, add honey and fresh fruit to flavour it yourself and get an extra boost of fibre, which is also essential for your gut.
Idli and Dosa. South Indian foods such as idli and dosa are usually fermented and rich sources of probiotics. The benefits of these foods are that they are often served with vegetable-packed sambars or bhajis and make for healthy meals.
Paneer. Also known as cottage cheese, naturally made paneer contains a good amount of probiotics and will help you with your recommended calcium intake as well. Some other cheeses such as mozzarella, cheddar and Gouda can sometimes contain natural probiotics. Just be sure to check the label for live and active cultures.
Akhuni (Fermented Soybean). Fermented soybean paste is used most commonly in foods from Nagaland. It can be an acquired taste for some, with its sharp flavour and strong smell, but is savoured for its taste and health benefits in Northeast India.
Kombucha. Kombucha is a fermented drink made from sweetened tea and a culture of bacteria and yeast. It has a distinctive sour taste and is gaining popularity in India for its health benefits. You can find it at larger supermarkets, health food stores or restaurants.
Pickles or gherkins. Gherkins are an easy natural probiotic to incorporate into meals, such as with meat or fish dishes or in salads and stir-fries.
Soy milk. Soy milk is a great alternative to milk for those who are lactose intolerant. This drink is a great source of probiotics as well as protein.
In addition to natural probiotic foods, there are also foods known as prebiotics. These are high-fibre foods that feed the good bacteria in your gut and they include garlic, onions, leeks, legumes such as beans, chickpeas and lentils, nuts, fennel and whole grains such as cereals. The best thing to do is to combine plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables with fermented foods like natural yoghurt and pickles, to ensure a healthy, well-balanced gut.
Besides keeping healthy through diet, exercise and regular health checks, good health insurance are crucial in making sure that you are well taken care of in case illness strikes. What you eat has a huge impact on your physical well-being but your health isn’t solely dependent on diet and ailments and illnesses can crop up due to a host of reasons that are genetic, environmental or circumstantial. That’s why it’s always good to be prepared in case of an unfortunate health obstacle comes your way with health insurance.
Recipes (can be added/adapted for varying markets)