Your gut is one of the most important and neglected parts of your body. It’s actually home to more than 80% of our immune system—and it’s also where we absorb nutrients, store good bacteria, and produce vitamins like B12.
When you have a healthy gut, it’s easier to stay lean, have more energy, have a stronger immune system, and think more clearly. When you don’t? It can be hard to shed weight, get sick often, and just feel… off.
That’s why probiotics are so important! They’re beneficial bacteria that live in the digestive tract and help with nutrient absorption and digestion. They can also help protect against some infections and disease. And they can even help with your mental health!
food with probiotics list
Probiotics are live microorganisms that have health benefits when consumed (1Trusted Source).
Probiotics, which are usually called beneficial bacteria, provide all sorts of powerful benefits for your body and brain. They may (2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source):
- improve digestive health
- reduce depression
- promote heart health
Some evidence suggests they may even give you better-looking skin (5Trusted Source).
Consuming probiotics in supplement form is one popular way to get them, but you can also get them from fermented foods.
Here is a list of 11 probiotic foods that are super healthy.
Yogurt is one of the best sources of probiotics, the friendly bacteria that can improve your health.
Yogurt is made from milk that has been fermented by probiotics, mainly lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacteria (6).
Eating yogurt is associated with many health benefits, including improved bone health. It is also beneficial for people with high blood pressure (7Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source).
In children, yogurt may help reduce diarrhea caused by antibiotics. It can even help relieve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (9Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source).
Additionally, yogurt may be suitable for people with lactose intolerance. This is because the bacteria turn some of the lactose into lactic acid, which is also what gives yogurt its sour taste.
However, keep in mind that not all yogurt contains live probiotics. In some cases, the live bacteria have been killed during processing.
For this reason, make sure to choose yogurt with active or live cultures.
Also, always read the label on yogurt before you buy it. Even if it is labeled low fat or fat-free, it may still be loaded with high amounts of added sugar.
Probiotic yogurt is associated with a number of health benefits and may be suitable for people with lactose intolerance. Make sure to choose yogurt that has active or live cultures.
Kefir is a fermented probiotic milk drink. It is made by adding kefir grains to cow’s or goat’s milk.
Kefir grains are not cereal grains, but rather cultures of lactic acid bacteria and yeast that look a bit like cauliflower.
The word “kefir” is thought to come from the Turkish word “keyif,” which means feeling good after eating (12Trusted Source).
Indeed, kefir has been linked to various health benefits.
It may improve bone health, help with some digestive problems, and protect against infections (2Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source, 14Trusted Source).
While yogurt is probably the best-known probiotic food in the Western diet, kefir is actually a better source of good bacteria. Kefir contains several major strains of friendly bacteria and yeast, making it a diverse and potent probiotic (15Trusted Source).
Like yogurt, kefir is generally well tolerated by people who are lactose intolerant (16Trusted Source).
Kefir is a fermented milk drink. It is a better source of probiotics than yogurt, and people with lactose intolerance can often drink kefir with no problems.
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Sauerkraut is finely shredded cabbage that has been fermented by lactic acid bacteria. It is one of the oldest traditional foods and is popular in many countries, especially in Eastern Europe.
Sauerkraut is often used on top of sausages or as a side dish. It has a sour, salty taste and can be stored for months in an airtight container.
In addition to its probiotic qualities, sauerkraut is rich in fiber as well as vitamins C and K. It is also high in sodium and contains iron and potassium (17Trusted Source).
Sauerkraut also contains the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which are important for eye health (18Trusted Source).
Make sure to choose unpasteurized sauerkraut. Pasteurization kills the live and active bacteria. You can find raw types of sauerkraut online.
Sauerkraut is finely cut, fermented cabbage. It is rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Make sure to choose unpasteurized brands that contain live bacteria.
Tempeh is a fermented soybean product. It forms a firm patty whose flavor is described as nutty, earthy, or similar to that of a mushroom.
Tempeh is originally from Indonesia but has become popular worldwide as a high protein meat substitute.
The fermentation process actually has some surprising effects on its nutritional profile.
Soybeans are typically high in phytic acid, a plant compound that impairs the absorption of minerals like iron and zinc.
However, fermentation lowers the amount of phytic acid, which may increase the amount of minerals your body is able to absorb from tempeh (19Trusted Source, 20Trusted Source).
Fermentation also produces some vitamin B12, a nutrient that soybeans do not contain (21Trusted Source, 22Trusted Source, 23Trusted Source).
Vitamin B12 is mainly found in animal foods, such as meat, fish, dairy, and eggs (24Trusted Source).
This makes tempeh a great choice for vegetarians as well as anyone looking to add a nutritious probiotic to their diet.
Tempeh is a fermented soybean product that serves as a popular, high protein substitute for meat. It contains a decent amount of vitamin B12, a nutrient found mainly in animal products.
Kimchi is a fermented, spicy Korean side dish. Cabbage is usually the main ingredient, but it can also be made from other vegetables.
Kimchi is flavored with a mix of seasonings, such as red chili pepper flakes, garlic, ginger, scallion, and salt.
It contains the lactic acid bacteria Lactobacillus kimchii, as well as other lactic acid bacteria that may benefit digestive health (25Trusted Source, 26Trusted Source).
Kimchi made from cabbage is high in some vitamins and minerals, including vitamin K, riboflavin (vitamin B2), and iron. Find kimchi online.
Kimchi is a spicy Korean side dish, usually made from fermented cabbage. Its lactic acid bacteria may benefit digestive health.
Miso is a Japanese seasoning. It is traditionally made by fermenting soybeans with salt and a type of fungus called koji.
Miso can also be made by mixing soybeans with other ingredients, such as barley, rice, and rye. This paste is most often used in miso soup, a popular breakfast food in Japan.
Miso is typically salty. You can buy it in many varieties, such as white, yellow, red, and brown.
Miso is a good source of protein and fiber. It is also high in various vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds, including vitamin K, manganese, and copper.
Miso has been linked to some health benefits.
One study reported that frequent miso soup consumption was associated with a lower risk of breast cancer in middle-aged Japanese women (27Trusted Source).
Another study found that women who ate a lot of miso soup had a reduced risk of stroke (28Trusted Source).
Miso is a fermented soybean paste and a popular Japanese seasoning. It is rich in several important nutrients and may reduce the risk of cancer and stroke, especially in women.
Kombucha is a fermented black or green tea drink.
This popular tea is fermented by a friendly colony of bacteria and yeast. It is consumed in many parts of the world, especially Asia. You can even purchase it online.
The internet abounds with claims about the potential health effects of kombucha. However, high quality evidence on kombucha is lacking.
The studies that exist are animal and test-tube studies, and the results may not apply to humans (29Trusted Source).
However, because kombucha is fermented with bacteria and yeast, it does probably have health benefits related to its probiotic properties.
Kombucha is a fermented tea drink. It is claimed to have a wide range of health benefits, but more research is needed.
Pickles (also known as gherkins) are cucumbers that have been preserved in a solution of salt and water.
They are left to ferment for some time, using their own naturally present lactic acid bacteria. This process makes them sour.
Pickled cucumbers are a great source of healthy probiotic bacteria, which may improve digestive health. They are also low in calories and a good source of vitamin K, an essential nutrient for blood clotting.
Keep in mind that pickles also tend to be high in sodium.
It is important to note that pickles made with vinegar do not contain live probiotics.
Pickles are cucumbers that have been preserved in salty water and fermented. They are low in calories and high in vitamin K. However, pickles made using vinegar do not have probiotic effects.
9. Traditional buttermilk
The term “buttermilk” actually refers to a range of fermented dairy drinks. There are two main types of buttermilk: traditional and cultured.
Traditional buttermilk is simply the leftover liquid from making butter. Only this version contains probiotics, and it is sometimes called grandma’s probiotic.
Traditional buttermilk is mainly consumed in India, Nepal, and Pakistan.
Cultured buttermilk, commonly found in American supermarkets, generally does not have any probiotic benefits.
Buttermilk is low in fat and calories but contains several important vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin B12, riboflavin, calcium, and phosphorus.
Traditional buttermilk is a fermented dairy drink mainly consumed in India, Nepal, and Pakistan. Cultured buttermilk, found in American supermarkets, generally does not have any probiotic benefits.
Natto is another fermented soybean product, like tempeh and miso. It contains a bacterial strain called Bacillus subtilis.
Natto is a staple in Japanese kitchens. It is typically mixed with rice and served with breakfast.
It has a distinctive smell, slippery texture, and strong flavor. Natto is rich in protein and vitamin K2, which is important for bone and cardiovascular health (30Trusted Source, 31Trusted Source).
A study in older Japanese men found that consuming natto on a regular basis was associated with higher bone mineral density. This is attributed to the high vitamin K2 content of natto (32Trusted Source).
Natto is a fermented soy product that is a staple in Japanese kitchens. It contains a high amount of vitamin K2, which may help prevent osteoporosis and heart attacks.
11. Some types of cheese
Although most types of cheese are fermented, it does not mean that all of them contain probiotics. That’s why it is important to look for the words “live cultures” or “active cultures” on the food labels.
The good bacteria survive the aging process in some cheeses, including Gouda, mozzarella, cheddar, and cottage cheese (35Trusted Source, 36Trusted Source).
Cheese is highly nutritious and a very good source of protein. It is also rich in important vitamins and minerals, including calcium, vitamin B12, phosphorus, and selenium (37Trusted Source).
Moderate consumption of dairy products such as cheese may even lower the risk of heart disease and osteoporosis (38Trusted Source, 39Trusted Source).
Only some types of cheese — including cheddar, mozzarella, and gouda — contain probiotics. Cheese is very nutritious and may benefit heart and bone health.
probiotic foods benefits
Though the most common place linked to beneficial microbes is your gut (mostly large intestines), you have several locations in and on your body that host good microbes. These locations are in contact with the “outside world” and include your:
- Urinary tract.
How do probiotics work?
The main job of probiotics, or good bacteria, is to maintain a healthy balance in your body. Think of it as keeping your body in neutral. When you are sick, bad bacteria enters your body and increases in number. This knocks your body out of balance. Good bacteria works to fight off the bad bacteria and restore the balance within your body, making you feel better.
Good bacteria keeps you healthy by supporting your immune function and controlling inflammation. Certain types of good bacteria can also:
- Help your body digest food.
- Keep bad bacteria from getting out of control and making you sick.
- Create vitamins.
- Help support the cells that line your gut to prevent bad bacteria that you may have consumed (through food or drinks) from entering your blood.
- Breakdown and absorb medications.
This balancing act is naturally happening in your body all of the time. You don’t actually need to take probiotic supplements to make it happen. Good bacteria is just a natural part of your body. Eating a well-balanced diet rich in fiber every day helps to keep the number of good bacteria at proper levels.