By definition, probiotics in their simplest form, are microorganisms that are believed to provide a number of health benefits upon consumption. A vast array of debates counter this view but the general view has continued to be that probiotic foods improve the health and functioning of the digestive system and enhance longevity.
This idea was first suggested by a the Nobel laureate, Elie Metchnikoff, who found that certain microorganisms replaced the harmful bacteria in the gut and therefore, contributed to overall improvement in heath. He found that the local Bulgarian peasants enjoyed a healthier and longer life and this had a direct connection to their regular consumption of yogurt.
In the Indian context, the most common example of probiotic foods is Dahi or yogurt. Ancient Indian wisdom and Ayurveda both seem to suggest that regular consumption of Dahiaids digestion and is especially useful when one is suffering from an upset stomach or when under medication. Even today, several medical practitioners prescribe a course of Lactobacillus to help the body cope with the digestive sluggishness that antibiotics may cause.
A few common benefits of probiotics are as follows:
Improvement of digestive system
Regulation of blood pressure
Reduction of inflammation
Increased efficiency of Central Nervous System
Increased tolerance of lactose products
Here are a few tips on incorporating probiotics regularly in one’s diet:
Include yogurt in at least one meal everyday—eat it with fruits for breakfast or make Frozen Yogurt (provide link to the recipe below). Or simply dilute with a little water and add mint and salt for a tasty mid morning drink. The butter milk left after extracting homemade butter is also an excellent source of probiotics. (Provide link to the first article on this page.)
Increase your intake of naturally fermented foods such as Kimchi and Sauerkraut. These make excellent sides or sandwich fillings, too.
Eat (or better still, make your own!) Sourdough bread. This kind of bread is made from naturally occurring yeasts rather than from commercial yeast and this helps to break down the proteins in the wheat better, making the bread easier to digest for people suffering from gluten sensitivity.
In the winters, make yourself a batch of Kaanji—a fermented drink made from carrots (usually seasonal black carrots, but red will also work well in combination with a few beets) and mustard. This is easy to do and makes for a delicious and refreshing drink.
Make idli and dosa the traditional way—by allowing the batter to ferment slowly overnight as opposed to adding fruit salt or soda bicarbonate to hasten the process.