Your gut and digestive tract are incredibly forgiving. They handle a hefty deal of work which our bodies need to function — but not without some help from the food we put through it. Probiotic foods are best for this, which I’m sure you’ve heard of since these foods have all the attention in the health space.
This is for good reason, though. Probiotic foods supply the gut with beneficial bacteria that lead to improved digestion, immune system support, and energy levels, just to name a few. While a supplement (in theory) should provide you with plenty, seeking out whole food sources with naturally-occurring probiotics is always recommended.
Luckily, there’s an array of options that you can find in a grocery store near you. Here are five probiotic-rich foods that can improve your gut health:
Maybe you’ve seen this at a cookout you’ve been to recently this summer. If you do at the next one, maybe consider adding it to your hot dog. Sauerkraut is made of fermented cabbage, and is a great accompaniment to a host of savory meals.
Try to choose refrigerated brands over canned-food aisle options, as these are more likely to have the live bacteria intact. Shelf-stable options generally have undergone an extensive level of processing that kills the bacteria in them.
Similar to sauerkraut, kimchi is cabbage fermented with healthful lactic acid bacteria. It makes a great addition to salads, sandwiches, and rice dishes. It’s been consumed in Korean diets for over 3,000 years, and is packed with nutrient density. This should also be bought in the refrigerated sections over canned.
This is likely the first food that comes to mind when you think of probiotics. There’s plenty of yogurt types, but for maximum benefit, try to look for brands with “live active cultures” or “probiotics” written on the label. In doing so, it’s also recommended to avoid brands that have excessive added sugars, as this could be counteractive in supporting optimal gut health.
Lesser known, but definitely on the rise in recent years, is this fermented tea that’s packed with probiotics, healthy yeasts, and B vitamins. Kombucha is generally made with green or black tea, yeast, and bacteria culture. It can be a convenient option for an on-the-go gut fix, as kombucha is often in the refrigerated to-go drink sections in stores. Homemade kombucha, experts warn, could do more harm than good if made or stored improperly.
This travel-friendly drink is essentially a drinkable yogurt. Originating in Russia, this drink is is made of kefir grains, which actually makes it more potent than yogurt. This is because it has not only a higher probiotic content, but a wider range of bacteria as well.
Kefir can be added to smoothies for more protein and gut benefits, or drank plain.
While there is no recommended amount of daily probiotics to consume, prioritizing probiotic foods in the diet can really only benefit. Several things like diet, prescription antibiotics, and the environment can disrupt a healthy gut microbiome. This is why supporting it regularly can help prevent complications. As always, check with your doctor or dietitian before making significant changes to your lifestyle.