Natural Food With Probiotics


Natural Food With Probiotics

Probiotics are a great way to keep your gut healthy. If you’re not sure what they are, they’re live cultures that help your digestive tract work properly and maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in your gut. The best probiotic foods are found in yogurt, kefir, kombucha and other fermented dairy products.

When you’re looking for a natural food with probiotics, it’s important to choose organic options whenever possible. If you can’t find organic products at your local grocery store, try looking online or at local farmers’ markets. It’s important to remember that when choosing a probiotic food, look for one that has several different strains of bacteria and yeast listed on the label.

You should also check expiration dates before buying any product containing fermented dairy products as these can expire quickly after being opened and stored in warm temperatures for too long!

Natural Food With Probiotics

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

  • 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.

Healthy foods
Jill Chen/Stocksy

1. Yogurt

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 .

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.

2. Kefir

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.

3. Sauerkraut

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.

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4. Tempeh

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 (24Tru-sted 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.

5. Kimchi

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.

6. Miso

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.

7. Kombucha

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.

8. Pickles

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.

10. Natto

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).

Other studies suggest that natto may help prevent osteoporosis in women (33Trusted Source, 34Trusted 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 are incredibly healthy

There are many very healthy probiotic foods you can eat.

This includes numerous varieties of fermented soybeans, dairy, and vegetables. Of those, 11 are mentioned here — but there are many more out there.

If you can’t or won’t eat any of these foods, you can also take a probiotic supplement. You can shop for probiotic supplements online. Be sure to check with a doctor before taking any new supplement.

Probiotics, from both foods and supplements, can have powerful effects on your health.

probiotic fruits

Between popping a daily probiotic pill, loading up on the sauerkraut, and spritzing your home with bacteria boosted sprays, you may think you have the whole healthy gut thing covered. But research suggests there’s a super simple, natural, and delicious way to get your probiotic fill (which in turn can help you feel less depressed, avoid leaky gut, and keep inflammation away).

According to a study published in Journal of Nutrition, a mango a day could help keep the good bacteria in the gut alive. Researchers fed mice mango powder consistently for two months and found that their guts were a whole lot healthier. The mango also was linked to reducing body fat (researchers called the change in body weight “significant”) and lowering blood sugar, suggesting a link between a daily mango and preventing diabetes.

In April, researchers at Tufts University posed a nutrition riddle. They compared people who took vitamin pills with people who got the same nutrients the old-fashioned way, by eating food.

Tracking intake of vitamins A and K, magnesium, and zinc, the scientists found that people were less likely to die of heart attacks and other diseases when these nutrients occurred in their diets. As the Tufts researcher Fang Fang Zhang said at the time, “There are beneficial associations with nutrients from foods that aren’t seen with supplements.”

Many vitamin supplements are synthesized to be exact replicas of the compounds you’d get from eating an apple or an orange. The chemistry should have the same effects on the body. Unless, of course, something was missing from the equation.

In a similar puzzle, recent studies have illuminated harms associated with highly processed foods—even though many of these foods are packed with added vitamins. White pastas and breakfast cereals, for example, may contain an entire day’s worth of some vitamins (synthesized and added, sometimes by law). As long as we’re getting the nutrients, why should it matter whether food is “processed”? Is processing simply bad?

One explanation for the benefits of eating minimally processed foods is probably fiber, which processing often strips away. Fiber slows the absorption of sugars, so they don’t hit our blood as quickly and cause insulin to spike (as with eating an apple versus drinking apple juice). Fiber also feeds our microbes. People with low-fiber diets have less diverse gut microbes—the trillions of microorganisms that populate our bowels and are vital to our digestion, metabolic health, and the functioning of our immune systems. The best known indicator of a healthy biome is diversity.

But fresh produce and grains also give us more than fiber. An exciting, emerging idea is that fruits and vegetables are healthier than the sum of their parts, not just because of nutrients and fibrous skeletons, but because they contain microbes themselves.

That might seem like a bad thing. But it actually builds on a story I wrote last week about how the immune system, gut microbes, and the food we eat all work in harmony to influence weight gain and loss. The closest thing to practical advice from scientists was to maintain a “diverse biome.” But how do people actually do that? Many readers wrote to ask for more concrete advice. (“Sounds like you still want us to take probiotics every day?”; “What’s the best probiotic?”; “Can I buy your microbiome?”)

Doctors have insisted for decades that unnecessary antibiotics should be avoided, to prevent the evolution of antibiotic-resistant superbugs. Upsetting one’s own personal microbial diversity adds yet another reason. Fermented foods of course contain bacteria, and their consumption has been linked to some health benefits. Beyond that, many people believe it’s necessary to turn to supplements. Even Harvard Medical School’s website tells patients as much, advising that “there are two ways to get more good bacteria into your gut: fermented foods and dietary supplements.”


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But supplements are an enormous and barely regulated industry. Even the best clinical trials are limited and short-term. Taking a probiotic supplement of Akkermansia was found last month to have some metabolic benefits—but the same bacteria are also associated with multiple sclerosis. Such things are not to be wantonly introduced into everyone’s guts, but used strategically in specific populations with specific needs—more like a drug than a food.

For all of human history, the gut microbiome has gone without bacterial pills. Fermented foods have been part of many cuisines around the world, but our ancestors didn’t live on kombucha. There had to be another source.

And, it turns out, there is: fresh produce.

In a study from July in Frontiers in Microbiology, researchers found that the average apple contains about 100 million bacteria. Most are inside, not on the skin. They came from many different taxa—as opposed to the probiotic-supplement pills, which tend to be only one type of bacteria. Of the millions of bacteria in any given apple, very rarely are any the sort that cause diseases; most are innocuous or even beneficial.

The idea, the apple researchers explain, is that these bacteria join and interact with the trillions of microbes that are in our guts already—which are vital to our digestion and metabolic health, and the functioning of our immune systems. Food is the main way that our gut biomes are populated throughout our lives, and microbe-rich foods seem to be important to maintaining diversity. The researchers suggest that microbial profiles could eventually become standard information on nutrition labels (currently limited to fats, proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals).

When it comes to apples, most of the microbes turn out to be in the core, central part, which most people don’t eat, because it is fibrous—full of fiber and microbes. If you eat only the flesh and skin, you miss out on 90 percent of the bacteria, some of which are the same species sold in expensive pills at Whole Foods. As I’ve argued in the past, if you eat the apple from bottom to top, the fibrous “core” is barely noticeable. The seeds of the apples had the most microbes of any part. They do contain trace amounts of cyanide, but adults should have no problem with a single daily core.

At Rutgers University, Donald Schaffner, a food-science professor, does not eat apple cores. But he is intrigued by the idea—and by the apple bacterial counts. His team has been counting microbes in food for years. Its main concern has been looking for disease-causing bacteria. The diversity of microbes in an apple comes as news even to him—and the numbers would have seemed impossible to him not long ago.

“This microbiome research is blowing things wide open in terms of complexity,” he told me. When the Rutgers lab started studying foods, the only way to look for microbes was to culture bacteria. It turns out that this was detecting only a small percentage of microbes, because not all of them grow on agar. Newer technology allows scientists to test for DNA, and this has revealed orders of magnitude more microbes on and in our food than previously imagined.

“We’ve known for a long time that there are organisms in fermented foods that have benefits,” said Schaffner, who had just eaten yogurt, “but there is a lot more to it than that.”

Each week his research team samples foods in the dining hall at Rutgers. Team members bring, for example, an egg back to the lab and mix it in with some dilution and put it into a “stomacher,” a sort of glorified sack that churns and shakes to simulate the action of the food being partly digested in the stomach. Then the team tests the slurry for bacteria—what’s there that would make it through the acidic barrier of the stomach. Produce consistently has more organisms than other foods.

“As long as it’s not spoiled, that may not be a bad thing,” Schaffner said. “You always want to limit human pathogens, but you also want to look at the overall microbiota.”

If the stomach-machine test found lots of microbes in a salad, that would be expected; it would only be a problem if a disease-causing species like E. coli appeared. By contrast, even a small number of bacteria on a hard-boiled egg suggests something is awry. “One of the foods I passed up on the breakfast buffet this morning is hard-boiled eggs,” he said. These should be relatively microbe-free, but this is often not the case. They represent “an excellent environment for growing bacteria.”

Short of food poisoning, the idea that foods with naturally higher bacterial counts could be good for human health is promising. It also offers a plausible explanation for why what we already knew to be true is indeed true. If fresh produce can be considered a probiotic food, that would only be cause to double down on the old nutritional wisdom: Eat a “balanced” diet, full of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, et cetera. If you do all that, except for specific cases, the average person shouldn’t need supplemental microbes.

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