Probiotic foods are living organisms that, when eaten, may improve your gut health.
But what are probiotics foods, exactly?
In short, most fermented foods are considered probiotics. While probiotics exist before fermentation even begins, the fermentation process is where these “good bacteria” thrive and multiply. With that being said, this guide will cover how probiotics can benefit your body and the best probiotics to add to your diet for overall wellness.
What Do Probiotics Do for Your Body?
All bacteria aren’t harmful. In fact, your body relies on the beneficial bacteria, known as probiotics, for several important functions. Some of the key health benefits of probiotics include:1
- Fight off bad bacteria and infection – The main job probiotics serve is to fight off pathogenic bacteria in your gut. Because of this, a balanced gut microbiota can help you become less susceptible to infections. When you do get sick, a balanced gut microbiota might help you feel better sooner.
- Help keep your digestive system running smoothly – Those healthy bacteria also play a key role in keeping your digestive system functioning optimally. A healthy digestive system can do a better job of absorbing and dispersing nutrients throughout your body.
- Alleviate side-effects of antibiotics – Have you ever experienced gastrointestinal pain or diarrhea during or after a course of antibiotics? Specific studied probiotics might help mitigate some of these symptoms, making antibiotic treatments more comfortable.
- Help your brain and gut forge a healthy relationship – The connection between your brain and gut impacts your physical and mental well-being. When your gut microbiota is balanced, you could feel better. This could help balance your mood and prevent excessive low-feeling days. You may also be able to concentrate more effectively when your body is in harmony.7
- Support healthy, restful sleep – When you don’t sleep well, everything else becomes more difficult. You may have trouble concentrating, eating well, and managing stress. A balanced microbiota could make you more comfortable, which makes it easier to get the healthy, restful sleep your body needs.8
What Are Your Daily Probiotic Needs?
There isn’t a set amount of probiotics that you should consume each day.2 This is because your body and its needs differ from another person’s—in other words, everyone has a different gut microbiota.
As such, many factors impact the effect probiotics may have on you, including:
- Your body composition
- Your health
- Your medications
- Your supplements
- The quality of the probiotics you consume
Because there is such a wide variance in how your body might react to each probiotic strain, it’s impossible to nail down a perfect dose that works for everyone.
However, it’s wise to begin with a small dose and give your body time to adjust to using probiotics. This may help prevent unwelcome side effects, such as:
- Stomach pain
If you begin taking regular probiotic doses and notice that you’re having any of these side effects, you should cut back on your dose until they subside.
Where Can You Find Probiotics?
While probiotics are found in many fermented foods, they’re also available in probiotic supplements.
Probiotic supplements come in several forms, including:
- Flavored, drinkable probiotic beverages
- Probiotic supplements that can be added to other foods
- Capsules that can be swallowed for a delayed release of probiotics
The best option for you is ultimately a matter of personal preference. Bio-K+® offers drinkable probiotics in both dairy and non-dairy options. Otherwise, capsules can also be a good choice for those who are looking for a quick way to get their daily dose of “good bacteria.”
Tips for Choosing the Best Probiotic Supplements
Navigating the probiotic supplement market is tough—there are countless options out there and it’s hard to know which ones to trust.
Since supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get what you paid for. As such, the best way to protect yourself is to be a critical consumer: Read labels, research product reviews, and only purchase supplements from reputable companies.
11 Probiotic Foods to Try
While you can get a quick dose of probiotics through dietary supplements, there are also many foods high in probiotics. And vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores can all find something to snack on that offers a dose of probiotic goodness.3
Yogurt is probably the most well-known source of dietary probiotics. A few key things to look for on the label of your yogurt include:
- Live and active cultures
- Minimal ingredients
- No artificial flavors or colors
Plain, unsweetened yogurt is an excellent choice because it provides a healthy dose of probiotics without unwanted additives.
What About Non-Dairy Yogurt?
If you practice a vegan diet or have a lactose sensitivity, don’t worry. Non-dairy yogurts can also give you a healthy probiotic dose. The guidance for selecting the best non-dairy options is the same as that for dairy products: Look for minimal ingredients and live and active cultures on the label.
Kefir is a fermented milk beverage.4 Making kefir involves adding lactic acid bacteria and some yeast to milk. The resulting concoction is a probiotic-rich drink that contains several different beneficial bacteria strains.
In many cases, kefir can even be tolerated by those who are lactose intolerant.
Kimchi gets its name from the specific probiotic specie used to make it—Lactobacillus kimchi. This tasty Korean condiment or side dish is made from:
- Cabbage and other vegetables
- Lactic acid bacteria
The result is a savory, sour, spicy mix that can give your digestive system a probiotic boost.
You’ve probably had tofu but may not have tried tempeh. While both are made from soybeans, tempeh has a few additional benefits. Along with the probiotic benefits it offers, tempeh is also:
- High in protein
- Easy to cook with
- A source of Vitamin B12
You can use tempeh in many dishes as a healthy substitute for meat.
Kombucha is another drinkable probiotic option, and it’s made from fermenting either green or black tea.
Oftentimes, flavoring and sweeteners are added to kombucha batches. As such, if you’re looking for an extra healthy beverage, find a kombucha that contains minimal ingredients.
Sauerkraut is a true love it or hate it food. If you’re on team sauerkraut, then you’re in luck. This fermented cabbage dish contains lactic acid bacteria that boost the levels of probiotics in your gut.
When dining, it’s important to only use raw, unpasteurized sauerkraut for maximum probiotic benefits. That’s because the heat during the pasteurization process can kill the “beneficial bacteria.”
This vitamin and mineral-rich probiotic can also be used on a variety of foods, whether you’re piling it atop a hot dog or adding it to an artisanal cheese plate.
Miso paste is commonly used to make soups, dressings, and sauces. It’s made from fermented soybeans and comes in several varieties: Red, brown, white, and yellow miso pastes are all rich in probiotics and other vitamins and minerals.
#8 Some Cheeses
Not all cheeses contain probiotics but several varieties do, including:
- Cottage cheese
- Some cheddars
The key is to look for aged varieties that haven’t undergone a heating process, which can kill the probiotics.Pregnant women should consult their health care provider to confirm they can consume safely different pasteurized cheese.
Do you love adding pickles to your burgers or even just snacking on them occasionally? If so, you might be getting a dose of probiotics from these sour snacks.
However, there are a few caveats, as all pickles aren’t rich in probiotics:
- Pickles preserved in vinegar don’t contain probiotics
- Pickles made using a solution of water and salt do contain probiotics
- Look for sour pickles to reap probiotic benefits
The best way to ensure you’re getting the benefits you seek is to make sour pickles at home. The process is quite simple, and you’ll get a jar of probiotic-packed pickles as a result.
Did you know that olives are actually another fermented food?5 These little fruit gems retain probiotic benefits throughout the brine curing process.
As such, both green and black olives contain a healthy dose of probiotics that may benefit your gut health.
#11 Apple Cider Vinegar
Fermented apple products, such as apple cider vinegar, are also good sources of probiotics.6 They’re readily available in most grocery stores and can offer an alternative to those who cannot consume dairy products.
Always look for apple cider vinegar that is unpasteurized to preserve the probiotics it contains.
Your Trusted Source for Probiotic Supplements: Bio-K+®
Adding a probiotic food like yogurt, sauerkraut, and olives to your diet may support immune function, and digestion.
However, if you don’t have a taste for fermented foods, Bio-K+® has you covered with our wide selection of high-quality probiotic products.
Our capsules and drinkable probiotics can help promote digestive and immune health. Shop our collection today.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Probiotics: What you need to know. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/probiotics-what-you-need-to-know. Accessed April 4, 2022.
- Probiotics: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. National Institutes of Health. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Probiotics-HealthProfessional/. Accessed April 4, 2022.
- Sniffen, J. C., McFarland, L. V., Evans, C. T., & Goldstein, E. J. C. (2018, December 26). Choosing an appropriate probiotic product for your patient: An evidence-based practical guide. PloS one. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6306248/. Accessed April 4, 2022.
- Azizi, N. F., Kumar, M. R., Yeap, S. K., Abdullah, J. O., Khalid, M., Omar, A. R., Osman, M. A., Mortadza, S., & Alitheen, N. B. (2021). Kefir and Its Biological Activities. Foods (Basel, Switzerland), 10(6), 1210. https://doi.org/10.3390/foods10061210. Accessed April, 4, 2022.
- Perpetuini, G., Prete, R., Garcia-Gonzalez, N., Khairul Alam, M., & Corsetti, A. (2020). Table Olives More than a Fermented Food. Foods (Basel, Switzerland), 9(2), 178. https://doi.org/10.3390/foods9020178. Accessed April 4, 2022.
- Cousin, F. J., Le Guellec, R., Schlusselhuber, M., Dalmasso, M., Laplace, J. M., & Cretenet, M. (2017). Microorganisms in Fermented Apple Beverages: Current Knowledge and Future Directions. Microorganisms, 5(3), 39. https://doi.org/10.3390/microorganisms5030039. Accessed April 4, 2022.
- Tooley, Katie Louise. “Effects of the Human Gut Microbiota on Cognitive Performance, Brain Structure and Function: A Narrative Review.” Nutrients vol. 12,10 3009. 30 Sep. 2020, https://doi:10.3390/nu12103009. Accessed April 4, 2022.
- Smith, Robert P et al. “Gut microbiome diversity is associated with sleep physiology in humans.” PloS one vol. 14,10 e0222394. 7 Oct. 2019, https://doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0222394. Accessed April 4, 2022.