You've most likely heard now about taking a probiotic supplement and its many potential benefits to your health. Whether the recommendation has come after a round of antibiotics, after having a baby, or after experiencing digestive distress - there are many times and reasons that it makes sense to take a probiotic supplement.
But what about food? Did you know there are probiotic foods? There are, in fact, many foods that contain probiotics--and when consumed regularly, these foods can function to help heal your gut by repopulating the good bacteria that live there. What are my top recommendations for probiotic foods? Keep reading!
Yogurt - yogurt is made by fermenting milk, and bacteria grow during this fermentation process - specifically lactobacillus and bifidobacteria families, which both have a large amount of research backing up the touted benefits. What's more, many people who can't tolerate dairy from cows can actually tolerate yogurt, as the milk sugar lactose is conveyed in to lactic acid in the fermentation process. Yogurt watch-outs: sometimes the good bacteria are killed during yogurt manufacturing - make sure the label claims there are "live/active cultures"; also check the sugar content- many yogurts have high amounts of added sugar. Opt for a plain yogurt and top with fresh organic berries, toasted unsweetened coconut, and a drizzle of local honey for great flavor without all the added sugar.
Sauerkraut - a food that has gone out of fashion, but is gaining popularity and for good reason. Sauerkraut is shredded fermented cabbage that is rich in lactobacillus bacteria. Make sure you're looking for a raw sauerkraut, as the pasteurized variety no longer contains the good bacteria (they're killed in the heating process). Add sauerkraut to a sausage dish or serve as a salty side.
Kombucha - 3-5 years ago, kombucha was pretty much only made by people by fermenting tea at home or found in select health food stores. Now, it's widely available! And for good reason - a refreshing, zesty beverage with probiotics? Sign me up! Kombucha watch-outs: if purchasing kombucha at a store, check the sugar content, as this can sometimes be high. Also, avoid if you have candida/yeast overgrowth issues as kombucha contains yeast and can make that problem worse.
Pickles - who knew that this popular topping and snack boasted health benefits like probiotics. Pickles are pickled cucumbers, and therefore contain probiotics via that fermenting process. Note that cucumbers must be pickled in water + salt to contain probiotics; pickles made in vinegar do not contain probiotics.
Traditional buttermilk - traditionally called "grandma's probiotic", this traditional buttermilk is literally the liquid/milky substance leftover from making butter. Unfortunately, cultured buttermilk that we typically purchase in the grocery store does not contain live active cultures. While this isn't a probiotic food that Americans are likely to consume, I did want to include it in this list to clear up buttermilk confusion, as many people believe that cultured buttermilk contains probiotics.
Some types of cheese - including mozzarella, gouda, and cheddar contain probiotics. These cheeses are aged and the probiotics can survive the manufacturing process. To be certain that the cheese you're purchasing does in fact contain probiotics, check the label for live/active cultures.
Kefir - this drink is not traditionally consumed by Americans, but is gaining in popularity as people become more aware of the benefits of probiotic foods and work to incorporate them into their diets. Kefir is made out of "kefir grains" made from lactic acid and yeast that are combined with cow or goat milk. Kefir contains more probiotic strains than yogurt; however, it does contain yeast, so best to avoid if you have candida/yeast overgrowth issues.
Fermented soy products - including miso, tempeh, and natto. These all contain probiotics as well as other health benefits. If consuming soy products, make sure you purchase organic, as many soybeans here in the US are genetically modified.
The common thread linking all of these probiotic foods together is fermentation. Fermentation allows good bacteria to grow in foods, and as you eat them, they pass through your digestive system into your large intestine, which is where most of your probiotics live in your gut. If you don't consume these foods on a regular basis, a probiotic supplement might be a good fit for you! Need a recommendation for a probiotic? Check out my top picks by clicking here.
That's all for now!
P.S. - For more healthy gut inspiration, make sure you follow me over on instagram @the_healthygut_dietitian