The gut microbiome and the trillions of bacteria that inhabit it constitute one of the most important elements for the overall wellbeing of our body.
An extensive body of research links bacterial communities to everything from body weight to immunity and digestion, and emphasizes the importance of having a well-balanced and thriving bacterial community.
Consuming a probiotic yogurt introduces friendly bacteria that help keep the “bad” bacteria in check, and when you have a healthy balance of bacteria in your gut, you have what’s called an equilibrium. This equilibrium can provide you with several health benefits, hence the reason probiotics are so important.
In this article, we’re going to explain what role probiotics play in the body, and determine whether vegan yogurts contain probiotics. Let’s find out.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are live microorganisms that provide you with health benefits when you consume them or apply them to your body. You can typically find probiotics in yogurts and other fermented foods (kefir being a popular one), as well as dietary supplements and beauty products.
Even though certain people look at bacteria as a pool of germs we ought to avoid, there are also many that are quite helpful. “Friendly” or “good” bacteria help us digest food, eliminate disease-causing cells, and produce vitamins.
The microorganisms present in probiotic products like a yogurt, are sometimes the same or similar microorganisms that naturally inhabit our bodies.
Probiotics affect the body in various ways, mostly in a positive way, such as:
- Influencing the body’s immune response and helping fend against pathogens, neutralize harmful substances from the environment, and even fight against cancer cells.
- Helping the body maintain a healthy community of microorganisms, which as a vegan, it means it will help you better digest fiber and prevent issues like constipation or bloating.
- Producing substances that have desirable effects, such as antibiotic-like compounds.
However, it’s important to note that the benefits may vary based on the type of bacteria in a given product.
Types of bacteria in probiotics
Probiotics contain a variety of microorganisms.
The most common bacteria belong to two different genus called Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, and within these two genus, you have a sub-category of strains.
Lactobacillus is a species of bacteria that products lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose, but they also produce lactic acid, which help keep the bad bacteria in check.
Bifidobacterium is a species of bacteria that is particularly used in food products and dietary supplements, and they’re believed to provide several health benefits, such as supporting the immune system, limiting the growth of bad bacteria in the intestine, and helping break down lactose so make use of its nutrients.
Probiotic are genetic subtypes of the genus species. Each strain has a different effect on the body, and you can easily identify which genus they belong to because of the first letter attached to its name. For instance, the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species are abbreviated as L. or B. followed by the individual strain name.
The most common strain names of probiotics you find in foods and dietary supplements are the following:
B. animalis: Danone, a popular yogurt brand, makes this strain. It’s believed to aid in digestion and fighting food-borne pathogens. It’s also thought to help the immune system. This probiotic is mostly found in dairy products.
B. breve: This strain inhabits the digestive tract and the vagina. It fights off infection-causing bacteria, or yeast. It ahelps your body absorb nutrients by fermenting sugar, and it helps break down plant-based fiber. This specific strain is also used to treat IBD and ulcerative colitis.
B. lactis: This strain stems from raw milk, and it also serves as a starter for foods like buttermilk, cottage cheese, and other cheeses.
B. longum: This strains lives in the gastrointestinal tract, and it helps break down carbohydrates, and it can also work as an antioxidant.
L. acidophilus: This strain can be found in the small intestine and in the vagina. It aids digestion and fight off vaginal bacteria. It’s present in yogurts and fermented soy products like miso.
L. reuteri: This one is found the intestine and mouth. Some researchers believe it may help decrease oral bacteria that cause tooth decay. It’s also believed to help the digestive system.
Are Probiotics Vegan-Friendly?
Not all probiotics are vegan-friendly. Unfortunately, many of the most popular probiotic foods and dietary supplements include strains derived from animal-based ingredients – predominantly dairy.
Quite often people reach out to popular probiotic sources such as yogurt and kefir and believe they can reap the full benefits probiotics provide. However, just in the United States, there are between 30 and 50 million people who are lactose intolerant, so their bodies may not react positively to the ingestion of dairy products.
Dairy is also associated with inflammation in the gut, which is a common precursor for conditions like leaky gut syndrome, and may trigger a cycle of unhealthy gut conditions.
Therefore, even if you’re not vegan or lactose intolerant, it might be a good idea to get your probiotics from plant-based sources.
There is a good selection of plant-based sources that contain probiotics, including fermented foods and drinks such as kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha (fermented tea), pickles, tempeh, miso and sourdough bread. If you want to get your probiotics from a supplement, we’ve also created a guide with the best vegan probiotic supplements.
Does Vegan Yogurt Have Probiotics?
Vegan yogurt is also among plant-based sources that contain probiotics.
The probiotics in vegan yogurts are, like dairy yogurts, formed through fermentation, which is a metabolic process used by bacteria under anaerobic conditions.
Dairy yogurt forms when bacteria ferment lactose into lactic acid.
The bacteria in a yogurt comes from a yogurt starter, which contains a blend of bacteria that consume lactose, and optimally convert it into lactic acid. A yogurt starter can be a store-bought yogurt, or a previous batch of yogurt, or a freeze-dried bacterial culture grown in dairy milk over time.
To make vegan yogurt, a similar process is also applied.
The vegan yogurt forms from bacteria fermenting the sugars in plant-based milk, but a vegan yogurt starter is also added to include bacteria that prey upon the sugars. Vegan yogurt starters can be anything from store-bought soy yogurts to bacterial cultures grown in non-dairy mediums.
Here is a quick table with fermented vegan yogurts that contain probiotics (or beneficial bacterial strains):
|Almond milk yogurt||Amande||L. acidophilus, L. rhamnosus, L. casei, L. bulgaricus, S. thermophilus, B. bifidum.|
|Almond milk yogurt||Kite Hill||S. thermophilus, L. bulgaricus, L. acidophilus, Bifidobacteria (species not specified).|
|Cashew yogurt||Forager Project||L. plantarum LM, L. acidophilus, B. bifidum, L. bulgaricus, S. thermophilus,
L. delbruekii LE.
|Coconut milk yogurt||Coconut Grove||S. thermophilus, L. bulgaricus, L. acidophilus, Bifidobacteriuma (species not specified).|
|Cultured coconut milk yogurt||Trader Joe’s||L. bulgaricus, S. thermophilus, L. rhamnosus, L. acidophilus, B. bifidum.|
|Soy yogurt||Nancy’s||L. acidophilus, B. lactis, L. casei, L. rhamnosus, L. bulgaricus, S. thermophilus.|
|Soy yogurt||O’ Soy Soy Yogurt||S. thermophilus, L. bulgaricus, L. acidophilus, Bifidusa (species not specified).|
Does Dairy-Free Yogurt Have Probiotics?
Yes, dairy-free yogurt contains probiotics, but the medium used to provide the yogurt with flavor and consistency comes from a plant-based source.
Does Lactose-Free Yogurt Have Probiotics?
Yes, a lactose-free yogurt contains probiotics, and they’re even equivalent to dairy yogurt. Lactose intolerants may experience more noticeable benefits from consuming non-dairy yogurt, since they won’t have to contend with lactose maldigestion, which may offset the benefits of probiotics.
Yes, vegan yogurts contain probiotics, and they even have similar strains of bacteria that you typically find in dairy-based yogurts.
If you’re vegan and want to consume more probiotics, eating vegan yogurt is a good way to do that.
Our Recommendation For Vegans
Future Kind’s Essential Vitamins: This is our favorite multivitamin. It’s not the typical multivitamin because it was formulated to specifically address potential shortcomings in the vegan diet. It contains the essential vitamin B12, vitamin D, and Omega-3 fatty acids (DHA & EPA) delivered in necessary doses so you don’t have to worry about potential deficiencies. Want to learn more about it? Check out the review we did on it.