Are All Fermented Foods a Probiotic?

“Probiotic” is a term used frequently (and loosely) in this era obsessed with gut health. It appears that any fermented food item earns the title “Probiotic”. However, the classification of an actual probiotic is much more specific than this.

For a fermented food item to be classified as a true probiotic it must meet the following criteria:

  1. Contain live bacteria
  2. Contain enough beneficial bacteria
  3. Produce a health benefit

Let’s delve a little deeper into the world of fermented foods so you can shop for probiotics with confidence!

Food manufacturers add live bacteria to create fermented food products through a process known as fermentation. Fermentation is used to make many food and beverage items such as yoghurt, cheese, kimchi, fermented milk, kombucha and kefir.

The presence of potentially beneficial bacteria within these food items imply that they must improve gut health. However, whether or not they improve gut health is largely unknown. Many food and beverage companies rely on this implication to appeal to a growing consumer base who are concerned with digestive health. It is no wonder that the fermented food market is booming right now!

In fact, some fermented food products don’t contain any live bacteria. This is because they undergo common food processing techniques such as pasteurisation, baking, smoking or filtering, which kill beneficial bacteria.

Without adequate research on the amount and type of bacteria within a product, it is impossible to determine whether a fermented food item is in fact a probiotic or merely a fermented food item.

So, to answer the question: “Are all fermented foods a probiotic?”- no, they are not. But this is not to say that all fermented food products are not, or do not, have the potential to be a probiotic. For example, Yakult is a fermented beverage that meets all the requirements of a true probiotic. This is because one 65ml bottle of Yakult:

  1. Contains live bacteria
  2. Contains 6.5 billion beneficial bacteria
  3. Has a proven health benefit

Next time you are shopping, check that the fermented food item meets all three criteria and be self-assured that you are choosing a true probiotic!

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