Health-conscious people do many things to protect their system. Focusing on what you shouldn't eat is, of course, important, but what gets lost in the shuffle sometimes is what you should eat. Even when you're protecting your gut from harmful foods, you should also consider the "good" stuff you can give it. Luckily, Indian food is inherently rich in some benign bacteria which aid in immunity and digestive strength overall.
These benign bacteria commonly referred to as 'commensals' are vital for gut health. The benign bacteria which are taken from outside as a food ingredient or supplements, and help the commensals to flourish are known as probiotics. And a little extra knowledge about probiotics rich foods is all you need to make this small change and keep your gut happy.
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are live intestinal bacteria that help improve the digestive ability of your system and build a strong immunity to diseases and problems relating to the gut. The human body is home to both, harmful bacteria as well as beneficial bacteria. Probiotics improve absorption of nutrients, improve synthesis of vitamins, essential fatty acids and prevents some bacterial and fungal infections. They are beneficial bacteria that help the body in fighting the harmful bacteria. Regular intake of probiotics is an easy way to keep diseases and digestive issues at bay.
Probiotics present in some food items like dairy products and fermented foods are the most similar to the bacteria that are present in your body. They occur naturally in certain foods, and intake of probiotics as a part of a meal is one of the best ways to maintain their levels in your body. While there are also some food probiotic supplement drinks available in the market, which contain a very high percentage of probiotics, the simplest way to consume these are through naturally available foods which are already a part of the regular diet. The quantity and frequency of consumption of these depends from person to person. But on an average, keeping some food item which is rich in probiotic intestinal bacteria on a daily basis would be considered a healthy diet.
Some Indian food preparations which are a part of the regular diet already contain probiotics and can be added to your diet as required. Most of these dishes are fermented, and hence, have live bacteria or yeast naturally in them. A few examples of these preparations and their probiotics benefits are mentioned below.
Idli and Dosa
All varieties of idli and dosa, the staple foods in the southern part of India, are made from fermented rice and lentils (Urad dal). They contain a good amount of intestinal bacteria and are low in calories, hence a healthy breakfast option. They are served with chutneys which also have some fermented ingredients and thus, add to the overall probiotic benefits derived from such foods.
With the huge variety of fruits, vegetables, spices and condiments that are used to make them based on the different regions and the popularity of the ingredients, one can pickle Mango, Garlic, Lemon, Chilli, Carrots and even Gourd to perfection in an Indian household. Most pickles require these vegetables or fruits to be fermented for some time, with oil or water, salt and other spices. They are easy accompaniments to any meal, and add more than just flavour to it. No wonder then, that they are readily available sources of intestinal bacteria. However, home-made pickles are best, since canned pickles often may contain other chemicals that destroy the probiotic elements.
The flour batter for Dhokla is first fermented and then, steamed. It is garnished with spices and chillies. Some varieties of dhokla can also be prepared with rice flour or a mixture of the two, and even fried after steaming. The freshly prepared, non-fried dhokla is the best source of probiotics. Since it is prepared from gram flour, it provides protein to the diet.
Curd is used in various forms in Indian households. A very simple preparation, curd is rich in lactobacillus and supports the gut in digestion. Curd–either sweet or salted–can also be consumed as Raita–by adding sliced fruits or vegetables. It can also be a part of preparations for other dishes like Kadhi (an Indian gravy based dish prepared from gram flour and curd) and Naan (a bread made in a fire oven). Curd can be prepared at home or store-bought, though home preparations are the best.
The easiest way to maintain a healthy gut is by adding dishes that contain intestinal bacteria to your daily meals. This strengthens your immunity and helps you digest food better. The probiotic benefits of these Indian dishes make them popular choices that are often readily available. To make it even more interesting, you could use your creativity and come up with your own unique recipes.
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