In a previous post, we established that probiotics are very beneficial bacteria that can help your overall health and wellness.
Our bodies naturally produce probiotics; however, there are two other ways you can get them; by taking probiotic supplements or by eating probiotic foods.
That’s right, some fermented foods are excellent sources of probiotic bacteria, and in this post, we will explore 10 of the healthiest probiotic foods that you should be eating.
10 Super Healthy Probiotic Foods
Sauerkraut is made by fermenting finely chopped cabbage with salt and then storing it away in a mason jar.
It is packed with sodium, vitamins C and K, iron, potassium, and fiber and naturally contain probiotics. It is one of the most commonly consumed probiotic-rich foods.
Sauerkraut is made by a process called Lacto-fermentation, and the fermentation process is quite safe.
This process breaks down the cabbage; as such, it becomes filled with organic acids and digestive enzymes, giving it that distinct sour taste.
However, these acids further promote good bacteria growth.
Additionally, the salty mixture (brine) that the cabbage is placed in causes bacteria to begin converting sugars within the cabbage into lactic acid bacteria.
Sauerkraut is loaded with natural lactic acid bacteria, such as lactobacillus. You can always purchase it at your local grocery store or make it quickly at home.
If kept in a sealed, airtight container, this fermented cabbage can last for months, whether inside the fridge or out.
A lot of people don’t realize that the yogurt they love and eat possibly daily could be healthy probiotic food.
Greek yogurt or live-cultured probiotic yogurt made from cows, sheep, or goat’s milk is probably the most commonly had probiotic food.
Typically, bifidobacteria lactic acid bacteria are used to ferment milk to make yogurt filled with probiotics (live and active cultures). This is why yogurt has that tangy or sour taste.
For this reason, it is often used in salad dressings.
Because of its probiotic content, yogurt is often used as a home remedy for several symptoms associated with diarrhea, high blood pressure, and irritable bowel syndrome.
Notwithstanding, it is essential to recognize that not all yogurts contain probiotic bacteria.
Though there is a large number of yogurts to choose from, if you are interested in the ones with lactic acid bacteria, etc., read the labels carefully so you can identify the ones that are organic, grass-fed, and made from goat’s or sheep’s milk.
Unfortunately, in a lot of brands, there are no live, good bacteria, as they are killed during processing.
Kefir is another form of fermented dairy byproduct loaded with probiotics. It is made by combining both milk and fermented kefir grains.
One thing to note is that kefir is also fermented with yeast, which means more probiotics along with many health benefits.
Kefir has a tart taste and an acidic flavor. Plus, it is jam-packed with up to thirty-four strains of probiotics.
Because of the use of yeast in the fermentation process, kefir can be a substitute for yogurt, as its lactose content is lower, which means people who are affected by lactose intolerance can eat it.
It sort of resembles cauliflower and may aid with improving digestive health and protecting against infections, among other health benefits.
Lastly, kefir is one of the best probiotic foods and is an even better source of probiotics than yogurt.
Tempeh is a fermented soybean product that originates from Indonesia and is often used as a substitute for meat in many dishes because of its protein content.
Tempeh is a rich source of vitamin B12, which is a result of it being a fermented soybean product.
To make tempeh, tempeh started is combined with soybeans and then allowed to rest for a few days.
The end result is patty-like discs with a strong flavor that lies somewhere between a mushroom and nutty.
But it can easily take on the flavor of whatever foods and sauces are added to it. Tempeh can be grilled, stir-fried, sautéed, and baked.
Naturally, soybeans are pretty high in a specific plant-based compound that negatively impacts the absorption of minerals like zinc and iron.
This compound is known as phytic acid.
However, the fermented soybeans have less phytic acid, and this enhances your body’s ability to increase the total amount of minerals you absorb from tempeh.
Traditionally, in Indonesia, tempeh is eaten both cooked and in its raw state.
Tempeh is often compared to tofu, as they are both plant-based proteins. However, tempeh is much more nutritionally beneficial and is an overall healthier option.
Miso, which is a fermented soybean paste and a traditional Japanese spice, is also loaded with many probiotic properties to deliver healthy bacteria.
To make miso, soybeans are combined with barley or brown rice, salt, and a fungus called koji.
Similar to a lot of fermented foods, koji can be left to ferment for days, weeks, months, or years without spoilage if stored properly.
It is quite delicious and can be prepared in a variety of ways, including miso soup, which is, of course, a Japanese delicacy.
In fact, miso is often used in numerous traditional Japanese foods.
In Japanese culture, miso is also used as part of their medicinal practice for gut health, immune system, and cardiovascular health benefits.
Additionally, it is revered as a digestive regulator that promotes better gut health.
You can choose from several types of miso; white, yellow, red, and brown. But they all have the same salty umami flavor.
6) Traditional Buttermilk
There are two types of buttermilk; traditional and cultured buttermilk.
Traditional buttermilk is a fermented dairy drink that is filled with good bacteria and is another one of the more commonly consumed probiotic-rich foods.
There are a variety of buttermilks being sold; however, look for the ones with live bacteria or live cultures on the labels if you want to get true probiotic benefits.
Buttermilk, as the name suggests, is made from actual butter… but not exactly butter because after butter is churned, the remaining liquid is used to make buttermilk.
Buttermilk is a rich source of vitamin c, vitamin B12, calcium, riboflavin, phosphorus, and other vitamins and minerals.
But it is actually quite low in fat and calories.
Kimchi is made by creating a mixture of Chinese cabbage with radishes, red pepper flakes, carrots, salt, garlic, ginger, onion, and fish sauce.
To ensure that you get a really fermented cabbage mixture, allow the combination to sit for three to fourteen days.
The end result will be a probiotic-filled treat that promotes good gut bacteria.
Also, kimchi is often referred to as a relative of sauerkraut but, in essence, is a Korean dish that is quite spicy.
This product is also an incredibly potent source of riboflavin, vitamin K, iron, plus many other nutrients.
Further, kimchi contains Lactobacillus kimchii, which is a form of lactic acid bacteria.
However, it does contain several other types of beneficial bacteria that may benefit your immune system but is primarily good for digestive health.
Also, because kimchi is low in calories and fat, it may also promote weight loss.
Kimchi has an interesting combination of flavors ranging from umami to spicy to sour, which are all affected by the duration the kimchi is fermented for.
Natto, which is made from soybeans that have been fermented, is another probiotic supplier originating in Japanese culture.
It is one of the more popular foods in Japan made of fermented soybeans.
Natto is said to provide exceptional health benefits, like being able to help restore the gut microbiome, as it contains the extremely powerful probiotic Bacillus subtilis.
Moreover, Bacillus subtilis is also able to improve your immune function, boost cardiovascular health, enhance bone health, like combating osteoporosis, and improve digestion of vitamin K2.
Natto is ranked as one of the best sources of probiotics, primarily because of the health benefits it is able to deliver according to its Bacillus subtilis content.
Natto may also be able to regulate inflammation since it is said to possess nattokinase, which is a potent anti-inflammatory enzyme.
Nattokinase is filled with protein and is scientifically proven to control blood clotting.
In Japan, natto is regularly used in rice meals and has a strong smell and flavor with a slippery texture.
The taste is described as being varied depending on its fermentation duration.
9) Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is a promising source of probiotics, is quite easy to come by, and can be made part of your daily diet with very little hassle.
This simple kitchen staple has a list of potential health benefits, many of which can be linked to its probiotic bacteria.
To make apple cider vinegar, chopped apples are left to sit at room temperature with water covering them until the natural sugars ferment and form ethanol.
Apple cider vinegar is naturally acidic with antimicrobial properties and can improve skin and hair health as well as aid in weight loss.
In addition, it may assist with managing insulin sensitivity, blood pressure regulation, and reducing cholesterol levels.
Apple cider vinegar has a tart or sour taste but is often used in salad dressings and sauces.
Many people drink it every day to aid weight management; however, it should be diluted with a bit of water.
Pickles are another easy-to-come-by probiotic foods that contain beneficial bacteria made from cucumbers that are fermented in a salt and water mixture.
Sometimes, vinegar is added to the mixture; however, these pickles will not be a source of live cultures.
To get the highest quality pickles that contain probiotics, look for those made with organic cucumbers.
The lactic acid present in the cucumbers will ferment them, turning them into pickles after a while. As such, pickles tend to be high in sodium.
Pickles, which are also referred to as gherkins, have a sour or tangy taste and are an excellent source of healthy bacteria that can improve digestive health and aid nutrient absorption.
They are also low in calories and a good source of vitamin K, an essential nutrient for blood clotting.
Probiotic foods are healthy products, some of which you can make right at home. They are highly beneficial to your health and wellness, along with being delicious.
Moreover, the process that ferments these foods is quite safe.
Foods like kefir grains can aid with better gut health, improved immune function, and many other health benefits.
Additionally, fermenting foods also provides you with a lot of vitamins and nutrients. These vegetables, soybeans, and dairy products may reduce your need to take probiotics in supplement form.
But remember, always speak to your doctor before including probiotic foods into your diet as an everyday addition.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Should I give probiotics to my kids?
Yes, but speak to their primary healthcare provider before giving them probiotic foods. Quite often, probiotics are given to children who have medical problems with antibiotics or other medications for symptom relief. Probiotic medicines and probiotic foods are typically used in conjunction for better results.
What other foods contain probiotics?
There are so many probiotic foods that you can eat to get active cultures, and some of these are brine-cured olives, cottage cheese, kvass, kombucha, and raw milk.
How can I add more probiotic foods into my diet?
It may actually be easier than you think. For one, you can use some probiotic foods in your salads, sauces, entrees, and more. Plus, you try having a few other cuisines every now and then, like Japanese and Indonesian.
Something as simple as adding probiotic yogurt to your breakfast can make a significant contribution to ensuring you intake more probiotics.
Can I also take a probiotic supplement?
Yes, there are many probiotic supplements; however, it's best to consult your doctor before purchasing any. They can help you determine which may be the best for you, if any.