Food & Drink Magazine

Adding Probiotics to Your Vegan Diet

By Yonni @vegandthecity
The human body was designed to heal itself.  It contains cells in the immune system which recognize foreign cells, then moves to obliterate them. The body contains bacteria both good and bad so that balance is maintained. Sometimes when the body can't heal itself, the immune system is weakened and needs help fighting off a disease or illness. We take antibiotics to fight off the infection or illness, but while the med fights off the infection, it further weakens the immune system. This causes a decrease in the good bacteria and increase in the bad bacteria. Balance needs to be regained.
What Probiotics Do:
*Probiotics are the good bacteria.
*They fight off the bad bacteria and restore strength to the immune system.
*They are vital to the digestion. They see to it that nutrients in food are absorbed into the body.
*These bacteria are located in the gastrointestinal tract. From there, just like a command post, they direct the operation to replace good bacteria partially destroyed by antibiotic use.
*Probiotics aid in the removal of yeast infections, gas and lactose intolerance associated with antibiotic use.
The Vegan Body
Every body is different, so the mix of bacteria in each body is pivotal to that person's health. The vegan body, for example, is animal-fat free, gluten free, sugar free, and growth-hormone free. The vegan body enjoys healthy skin, hair and nails. It enjoys less in the way of allergies, headaches and other ills, such as cancers, heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis, or degenerating eyesight.
It is also, unfortunately, dairy-free and therein lies the rub. Without the fermented dairy products such as buttermilk or yogurt, which contain live cultures called acidophilus, the immune system cannot fight off the bad bacteria or parasites.
Adding Probiotics to the Vegan Diet
*To ensure that probiotic foods do not contain dairy, the vegan would be advised to use soy milk or coconut milk. Into this you would use a live culture not dairy-based, which can be ordered from the 'Net, or you could use a container of soy yogurt as a base for your homemade yogurts. Be aware, however, that you need live cultures or the healthy bacteria you need so much won't be there.
*The vegan can use a live culture to make homemade probiotic foods out of cabbage, which is what sauerkraut is all about. Pickles, as well, are probiotic foods, as long as no vinegar is present and they are fermented with live cultures. Kim chi, an Asian cabbage dish, is probiotic, but tends to be a bit spicier than sauerkraut.
*Soybeans are useful in so many applications, but when the beans are fermented, they form a probiotic food in two manifestations, tempeh, which shapes up into a meat-like form. Tempeh can be used in various dishes as a protein.
*The second manifestation is Miso, a soybean paste which, when fermented, forms the base of soups in Japanese cuisine and is high in probiotics.
*Would you believe dark chocolate is probiotic? Something in the lactic acid makes this yummy treat probiotic, but as with all things, moderation is a good idea.
*For those who don't do the homemade thing or can't afford Whole Foods probiotic foods, there are probiotic supplements. The Mayo Clinic says that some probiotic foods do not provide enough bacteria to be beneficial. A good supplement, the clinic says, should have ten billion live cultures in order to see some benefit.
Adding probiotics to the vegan diet would be a healthy thing, which doesn't have to include dairy. So get out there and ferment your way to good health.  ~ Written by Wendy Bailey

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