The buzz about our gut shows no signs of simmering down, with many scientists now referring it as the body’s “second brain.” A healthy gut has been linked to a number of benefits, including weight loss, better digestion, healthy skin, improved immunity and brain function, and a reduced risk of many diseases.
Probiotics are the “good” bacteria that populate the gut, but because we consume things like antibiotics, pesticides, preservatives, and other chemicals often found in our foods, we tend to be lacking in them. In turn, the gut can become populated with other harmful bacteria that have negative consequences on our bodies. Fortunately, we can add probiotics back into our diet and replenish the gut lining to encourage healing and optimal health.
While you could always take a probiotic supplement, probiotic bacteria can be found in a number of foods that boast a wide range of other health benefits. Scroll down to check out our list of probiotic foods that you can add to any meal for an instant health boost.
Pickles are a nutritious snack, as they are low in calories and contain vitamin K. Plus, pickled cucumbers and other vegetables are loaded with probiotics because they are fermented, as are many probiotic-rich foods. Brined in water and salt, pickles are left to soak in their own lactic acid bacteria. The fermentation process makes them rich in probiotic cultures, so go ahead and add one to your plate at your next barbecue! But beware if your pickle is made in vinegar, it won’t contain the same probiotics.
Yogurt is one of the most popular probiotic foods and is rich in good bacteria, as well as other nutrients like protein and calcium. It has been linked to numerous health benefits including better digestion and improved bone health. Yogurt is also fermented, and contains bifidobacteria and lactic acid bacteria. Keep in mind, though, that not all yogurt is created equal. Look for labels that say “live bacteria” or “active cultures,” as some probiotic cultures are damaged in yogurt that has undergone extensive processing. Greek yogurt is always a great, healthy option!
Kimchi is a traditional Korean dish made of fermented cabbage and sometimes other vegetables. Interestingly, kimchi contains an individual type of probiotic culture, Lactobacillus kimchii, as well as other probiotics that boost your gut health. Typically made with spices like chili pepper and garlic, kimchi is a delicious and nutritious addition to any meal.
Miso is a seasoning traditionally used in Japanese cooking. Made from fermented soybeans, salt, and a fungus called koji, miso contains A. oryzae, a unique probiotic strain which has shown to improve digestion and have anti-inflammatory effects on the body. Some studies have even linked consumption of miso with a lower risk of breast cancer and stroke, particularly in women.
Another one just in time for BBQ season! Sauerkraut is a traditionally European fermented cabbage dish that is made with lactic acid bacteria. It’s rich in several nutrients like vitamins B, K, and C, and is also a good source of dietary fiber and antioxidants. Generally low in calories, you can add a spoon of sauerkraut to any dish for a tasty and delicious health boost. Keep in mind, just like pickles, some sauerkraut can be high in sodium, so be sure you’re checking your labels for a quality brand! We like this one from Superkraut ($16.95, Amazon).
Kefir is a fermented beverage that is made with milk and kefir grains. The word “kefir” actually comes from the Turkish word “keyif” which means to feel good (as in after a meal). Kefir contains several different strains of probiotic cultures, which actually makes it an ever better probiotic food than yogurt! It’s also been linked to other health benefits like better bone health and digestion.
If you haven’t yet boarded the kombucha train, the summer is the perfect time to cool off with one of these refreshing beverages. Kombucha is made by fermenting black or green tea with live yeast cultures. The fermentation process creates acetic acid bacteria that improves digestion and lowers inflammation. Kombucha is a powerful antioxidant, and it’s also shown in studies to improve cholesterol levels! Try it in a variety of flavors with this one from Wonder Drink Kombucha ($26.77, Amazon).