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10 Probiotics Foods That You Should Eat For Better Gut Health 2023

Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Kathy Shattler, MS, RDN

probiotic foods

The cost of disease and disorders of the gastrointestinal tract is in the billions. In 2015, Americans spent an annual total of nearly $136 billion[1] on digestive health ailments, more than mental health, heart disease, and trauma. Many Americans currently have some type of digestive-related problem, with an estimated 10 to 15 percent[2] of the adult population battling symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Thanks to the standard American diet, it’s no surprise why so many people are suffering from an imbalanced gut microbiome and poor health.

In response to common gut-related ailments, more people are turning to probiotic foods to help regulate their digestive tract and reduce gastrointestinal discomfort. Since digestive diseases are the third major illness in the U.S., increased consumption of probiotics in foods and supplements couldn’t be more timely.

Regularly consuming yogurt, kefir, kombucha, kimchi, miso, tempeh, and other probiotic-rich foods helps with regulating weight loss, improving immune function, and balancing the gut microbiota[3]. Thanks to the unique properties of probiotic strains, the human body can greatly benefit from regularly consuming probiotics in food.

What Are Probiotics?

The digestive system is home to over 400 different types of bacteria. Since 70% of the immune system is found in your gut, ensuring that the microbiota is healthy and balanced is critical. Consuming fermented foods with probiotics like kimchi, tempeh, miso, and sauerkraut is highly beneficial for the body. Probiotics are used to support gut bacteria and health, treat inflammation, heal acne, promote weight loss, and curb appetite.

Some people may accidentally interchange probiotic and prebiotic foods, but they are different and should not be confused as the same thing. Probiotics and prebiotics both offer unique health benefits for gut bacteria and overall digestive health. So, what are probiotics? Probiotics are living strains of bacteria added to foods that support diverse, balanced gut microbiota. Prebiotics are plant fibers that help nourish good bacteria within the gut. Some examples of prebiotic foods include asparagus, garlic, leek, and flaxseeds.

Simultaneously taking prebiotics and probiotics boosts the impact of both and is a form of microbiome therapy. According to a registered dietitian and manager of NYPBeHealthy, Georgia Giannopoulos, R.D.[4], CDN, “Probiotics mean ‘for life’ and are instrumental in keeping the digestive tract healthy.”

Top 10 Probiotic Foods To Support Gut Health

One of the simplest ways to introduce probiotics to your digestive tract and support a balanced gut microbiome is to consume the best probiotic foods. When looking for probiotic fermented foods, check the label to see what specific probiotic strains are included. Eating fermented foods[5] enrichens your diet and provides healthful benefits.

Greek Yogurt

Enjoy a daily serving of yogurt daily to get a sufficient amount of healthy bacteria from included probiotic strains. Typically, Greek yogurt has a lower amount of lactose than other yogurt types and contains probiotics Lactobacillus acidophilus or Lactobacillus casei[6]. Eat Greek yogurt for a source of calcium, a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, lower blood pressure, and plenty of protein and potassium to keep you sated.

It is recommended to consume at least one cup of yogurt daily[7] to fulfill dietary guidelines. Eating Greek yogurt made from goat’s milk may be gentler for people who have lactose intolerance and a sensitive digestive system.

Kefir

If you want to enjoy the probiotic benefits found in foods that are packed with nutrition, consider drinking a serving of kefir daily. Kefir is fermented milk that contains a low amount of alcohol, is safe for most to consume without issue, and helps improve lactose tolerance. In addition to supporting gut health, kefir may improve bone health, protect against cancer, and has antibacterial properties worth investigating.

Kefir can be made using raw milk if the grains are activated. Sensitive adults should make this probiotic-rich fermented drink using pasteurized milk, which helps hydrate kefir grains. Adults can safely consume one to three cups of kefir as part of their daily diet. Registered dietitian Caroline Margolis[8] says, “It’s recommended to consume one to two 8-ounce servings of kefir each day for maximum probiotic health.”

Kimchi

The pungent aroma of kimchi is unforgettable, as this is one fermented food containing probiotic strains that support the immune system, reduce free radicals, and help with weight loss[9]. Adding kimchi[10] to your diet may take some getting used to, as this flavorful fermented food is high in sodium and garlic. However, the extensive health benefits are beyond compare for having anti-cancer[11], anti-constipation[12], and anti-obesity[13] properties.

According to dietitian Samantha Cassetty, RD[14], “Like other fermented foods and veggies, kimchi is rich in beneficial probiotics.” It is recommended to eat one serving of kimchi daily. Start with 1g if new to eating kimchi, and consume more if you wish.

Miso

Enjoy a cup or bowl of miso soup or add miso to dishes for its health benefits. Miso is typically made from fermenting soybeans and can be added to salad dressings. Even though this fermented food may be a bit on the salty side, it has been connected to longevity and the reduction of irritable bowel syndrome symptoms. There may be concerns about miso and hypertension, but this probiotic food has been used to relieve inflammation, stomach ulcers, lower the risk of obesity[15], and provide other health benefits.

According to Kayo Kurotani[16] of the National Institutes of Biomedical Innovation in Tokyo, “ Fermented soybeans used for products such as miso and natto might have a beneficial effect on longevity…” The average Japanese adult consumes 20g of miso daily[17].

Sauerkraut

If you are looking for beneficial probiotic foods that help with weight loss, add some sauerkraut to your plate every day. People enjoy eating this food for its high fiber content, low calories, and stimulation of good gut flora[18]. Take caution, as eating too much sauerkraut can lead to diarrhea, but a small amount helps improve digestion and the immune system.

It is best to consume 7 to 10 g of sauerkraut daily to enjoy its health effects, as recommended in a study[19].

Fermented Cheeses

Delicious fermented cheese like Swiss, Gouda, and Parmesan contain protein, calcium, and live and active cultures of lactic acid bacteria for supporting gut health. It is ideal to eat cheese in moderation, as it has a high fat content. However, fermented cheese[20] may help improve blood cholesterol, reduce metabolic disorder risk, and keep your gut microbiota happy.

An article covering the consumption of cheese[21], mentions how the fermentation process for cheese “favorably influences your microbiome” and contains beneficial nutrients and vitamins. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, adults should consume 3 cups of dairy servings daily, and a serving of cheese can fulfill this recommendation.

Traditional Buttermilk

The initial taste of traditional buttermilk may have a tang to it, but it’s only because of the probiotic strains within. Strengthen bones, get a rich source of protein and calcium, and enjoy the cooling relief this fermented dairy drink offers. It is safe to drink buttermilk daily to reap the benefits of lower blood pressure[22], lower cholesterol, and ease of digestion compared to other dairy products.

The lactic acid in buttermilk and its hydrating properties aid digestion and speed up metabolism. 500 ml of buttermilk can be consumed as a meal replacement for one to three meals daily. There is no set recommended amount of buttermilk intake, but caution should be taken, as drinking too much can lead to diarrhea for some.

Kombucha

Don’t drink kombucha to be trendy. This fermented probiotic-rich beverage is perfect for you. Kombucha originates from Asia and is made using a base of green or black tea, yeast, bacteria, and sugar. Drink this daily for B vitamins, antioxidants, and improved digestion[23]

Denver-based registered dietitian Maria Zamarripa[24] stresses, “the drink is not a substitute for a healthy diet” and that kombucha contains “probiotics [that] can support gut health.” According to the CDC, it is safe to consume 4 ounces of kombucha[25] one to three times daily.

Tempeh

Move over tofu and miso, tempeh is another food with probiotics that is based on fermented soybean. As a popular meat substitute for vegetarians, tempeh packs plenty of texture, antioxidants, probiotics, and protein. Enjoy consuming tempeh regularly to balance blood sugar[26], lower cholesterol, and improve gut health and immune function.

According to Tina Marinaccio[27], MS, RD, CPD, “Tempeh is best marinated.” One serving of tempeh measuring half a cup provides 15g protein, 9g fat, and 160 calories. It is best to eat tempeh two to three times a week.

Natto

The odor and texture of the natto are unforgettable because of the sticky surface and texture of the fermented soybeans. You can enjoy eating a little of this pungent, probiotic-rich food daily without worry. Natto is a rich source of vitamin K2, nattokinase, fiber, and other nutrients and enzymes.

Nattokinase[28] is a natural enzyme derived from natto. The fermented food is an acquired taste, but it may help boost cardiovascular health because it improves blood circulation[29], breaks up blood clots, and lowers blood pressure and cholesterol.

As stated in the Takayama study[30], higher consumption of natto showed an association with a lower risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease. Adults have no exact suggestion regarding how much natto to consume to reap the health benefits, but one cup provides 369 calories[31]. Enjoy eating this delightful form of fermented soybeans with rice, vegetables, or soup.

7 Common Probiotic Strains

The world of probiotics offers various strains that have been studied for their unique impact on specific health issues. Eating certain foods that contain distinct probiotic strains has been used to reduce problems with stress, regulate mood, contribute to weight loss, treat inflammation caused by arthritis, or help deal with acne. Increase your intake of probiotics and consume foods and beverages with specific probiotic strains.

The seven common probiotic strains added or naturally found in fermented foods include the following:

  • Bacillus
  • Bifidobacterium
  • Enterococcus
  • Escherichia
  • Lactobacillus
  • Saccharomyces
  • Streptococcus

Probiotics For Weight Loss

Using probiotics for weight loss is often a combination of using strains that regulate appetite, inhibit fat storage, or promote weight loss. The probiotic strains L. fermentum and L. amylovorus[32] may prove helpful for weight loss, as well as Lactobacillus gasseri BNR17[33], Bifidobacterium breve B-3[34], and Bifidobacterium lactis B420[34]. Fill up on foods with probiotics like kimchi and yogurt for Bifidobacterium strains. Kefir, sourdough bread, and sauerkraut are good sources for Lactobacillus strains.

Probiotics For Acne

One of the first probiotics studied for its positive impact on acne was Lactobacillus acidophilus[36], which is found in yogurt, tempeh, sauerkraut, iso, and cheese. Bifidobacterium lactis HN019[37] is another strain that helps with acne. Bifidobacterium lactis HN019 is found in pickles, fortified foods, kombucha, kefir, miso, yogurt, and tempeh.

Probiotics For Inflammatory Arthritis

Consume probiotic foods containing the probiotic strains Lactobacillus[38], Bifidobacterium[39], or Saccharomyces boulardii[40] for inflammatory arthritis. Add kimchi, miso, kefir, sauerkraut, or kombucha to consume the following probiotics to reduce symptoms of inflammation and regulate your health. S. boulardii is in cream, dahi, milk, yogurt, cheese, and kefir.

Probiotics For Mood And Stress

Regulate your mood and reduce stress levels by consuming probiotics Bifidobacterium longum 1714[41], Lactobacillus casei Shirota[42], or Lactobacillus acidophilus Rosell-52[43]. Some good food sources of Lactobacillus casei Shirota include yogurt, cheese, and the fermented milk drink Yakult. Bifidobacteria longum 1714 is in goat-based dairy products, kefir, miso soup, and seaweed. Tempeh, miso, and sauerkraut are natural food sources containing Lactobacillus acidophilus Rosell-52.

Does Eating Probiotics Foods Have Side Effects?

Many people consume probiotic foods like fermented pickles or kefir with little to no adverse reaction. But, they may cause side effects when your body has to adjust to probiotic foods being a regular part of your diet. Side effects of probiotics may include bloating[44], gas, constipation, allergic response, and thirst. Some people may develop stomach irritations in the form of cramping or diarrhea. 

Over time, any unpleasant downsides of probiotics typically subside after a few days or weeks, as your body’s digestive system and microbiome get comfortable with introduced probiotics. Probiotic foods are considered safe to consume because the bacteria and microbes within are naturally occurring in the body. Any side effects produced are a matter of the gut microbiota responding to the friendly bacteria.

How To Add Probiotic Foods To Your Diet Without Side Effects

Take things slow and steady, gradually introducing probiotic foods to your diet. Start with a low amount of probiotics and increase the amount consumed according to your body’s comfort level and response. Suppose you allow your body a few weeks to get adjusted to introducing more probiotics to the digestive system.

In that case, the likelihood of experiencing diarrhea, bloating, gas, constipation, or other discomfort is greatly reduced. Consult a registered dietitian or your physician to provide medical advice regarding your probiotic intake and eating fermented foods.

Summary

Probiotic foods are a rich source of nutrients, and antioxidants and they support gut health, detox the body, and control weight. You can enjoy the health benefits of live probiotics by consuming foods with specific probiotic strains or taking a daily supplement. When first consuming probiotic foods, the body may need some adjustment, and there may be some discomfort in the form of gas, cramping, constipation, or diarrhea.

However, gradually introducing probiotic strains to the digestive tract can help reduce health ailments and improve overall health and bodily function. As digestive problems continue to plague many Americans, adding probiotic foods to one’s diet provides beneficial bacteria for good health.

Frequently Asked Questions

What fruits are good probiotics?

Fruits like apples, peaches, mango, grapes, pineapple, banana, citrus fruits, and guava are good sources of natural probiotics. All of these fruits are supportive of gut health and good bacteria.

How can I add more probiotics to my diet?

Make an effort to consume more probiotic foods, such as kefir or kombucha, for a refreshing drink. Tempeh, probiotic yogurt, and miso can be eaten alone or added to dishes.

Are prebiotics the same as probiotics?

Prebiotics describe fiber found in foods that nourish good bacteria within the gut. Probiotics are used for describing bacteria in supplements and certain types of foods that have health benefits.


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Medically reviewed by:

Kathy Shattler

Alex Smith is a NY-based content writer who enjoys covering natural health, supporting wellness, personal finance, history, and outdoor living. When he is not behind a keyboard living the wordsmith life, he enjoys visiting landmark destinations and bookstores.

Medically reviewed by:

Kathy Shattler

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Database From Cleveland Clinic Foundation

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Trusted Source

Database From U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

Governmental Authority
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WHO

Database from World Health Organization

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Neurology Journals

American Academy of Neurology Journals

American Academy of Neurology
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MDPI

United Nations Global Compact
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Trusted Source

Database From National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
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Trusted Source

Database from U.S. National Library of Medicine

U.S. Federal Government
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Trusted Source

Database From Department of Health and Human Services

Governmental Authority
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PubMed Central

Database From National Institute Of Health

U.S National Library of Medicine
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