Are Probiotics Vegan?
Probiotics are strains of bacteria and yeasts primarily that have been shown to have a positive benefit on the body in some way. The microbiome, or your gut ecosphere that has bacteria, viruses, fungii, yeasts, and other organisms is incredibly complicated, much like a super intense spider web. So knowing exactly how these organisms influence our digestion, immunity, brain health, weight, and other things is incredibly difficult and we are just now learning some basics. With that being said, probiotics have many influences in how they impact our health, from how much sleep you’re getting to the amount of exercise you get so some strains may not have the exact same effect on every person but there are general takeaways. Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are the two genus of bacteria that have the most positive research to support their use. Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, and Lactobacillus reuteri are three very common strains that have been shown to help with digestive health, oral health and Lactobacillus reuteri specifically has been shown to help with women’s health. Bifidobacterium lactis and Bifidobacterium bifidum are two that are helpful for digestive health among other things.
Back to our original question… are probiotics vegan? Technically, these are live active organisms that for the most part naturally occur in the fermentation process in foods like sauerkraut and kombucha. Because they naturally occur, no animals are harmed and are therefore considered vegan…but only if the food source is vegan. For example, you can find Lactobacillus acidophilus in many dairy products like yogurt but it can also be in vegan yogurts that are made from the fermentation of soy or almond. So, if the original food source is vegan, the probiotics the food contain are also considered vegan.
If you’re unsure of some of the best vegan probiotic sources (not coming from a supplement), as a vegan Registered Dietitian, I thought I would give you the best probiotic foods in my opinion…
- Fresh Sauerkraut – not the canned stuff, but the fresh sauerkraut (in the refrigerated section of the grocery store) or anything you would ferment at home
- Kimchi – similar as the sauerkraut but this would just have more spices and seasonings added into the cabbage (and sometimes other vegetables like cucumber)
- Vegan Yogurt – This can be made from almond, soy, or coconut but know that the coconut option has very little protein. Some vegan yogurts contain a lot of added sugar, so opt for unsweetened varieties when possible. Also note that not all commercially available vegan yogurt contains live active probiotic cultures.
- Kombucha – Kombucha is fermented tea that usually contains a beneficial yeast genus, Saccharomyces.
- Tempeh – the base of tempeh is fermented soybean but it can also include other grains like rice or millet in the process and is a hearty vegan high protein staple.
- Miso – originally made from soybeans, this flavorful paste is now made from soy or other beans and grains and adds a rich depth and umami flavor to many meals from Miso soup to a vegan Mac&Cheese.
What is your favorite source of vegan probiotics?? Comment below and let us know.