9 Probiotic Foods to Add to Your Diet
Add these fermented, probiotic foods to your diet to help fight inflammation, boost your immune system and improve digestion
“Fermented foods, which may contain probiotic bacteria, are an important part of a digestion-friendly, anti-inflammatory eating plan,” says Desiree Nielsen, a registered dietitian and author of Un-Junk Your Diet: How to Shop, Cook, and Eat to Fight Inflammation and Feel Better Forever. The only catch? You can’t just eat probiotic foods occasionally and expect to see results. “You have to eat fermented foods as part of your daily diet in order to support better health,” says Nielsen.
Probiotics can help treat health conditions ranging from eczema and IBS, to high cholesterol and Crohn’s disease. There’s even research to show they could help improve mental health.
Read on to find out which foods naturally contain these disease-fighting, beneficial bacteria.
Fermented cabbage might not sound like an exciting probiotic food to add to your diet, but the crispy, pleasingly sour stuff also has some great benefits.
Just make sure you read the labels, warns Nielsen, since sauerkraut you find at the grocery store is probably pickled with vinegar, not fermented.
She suggests going in search of the good stuff at a health food store. “Look for the words ‘raw’ and ‘fermented’ on refrigerated sauerkrauts,” she says.
Rich and nutty, this vegetarian-friendly soybean cake is not only a delicious addition to your diet; it also boasts the benefits of fermentation.
If you’re looking to add an extra serving of protein to your diet, tempeh is a good place to start. “It is a wonderful protein source for those on plant-based diets,” says Nielsen.
One cup of tempeh has about 31 grams of protein, which means it’s even more protein-rich than tofu.
If you already include milk in your daily diet, try a fermented variety next time to get a dose of probiotics.
“When fermented with a high count of human strain bacteria, like Bio-K+ is, a fermented milk can be a high potency probiotic option that combines the best of both worlds: a fermented food that is also a clinical strength probiotic supplement,” says Nielsen.
This tangy, creamy drink might look (and taste) like a hybrid of yogurt and milk, but the fermentation process is different.
“Kefir fermentation includes bacteria and yeasts,” says Nielsen. If you want a big dose of probiotics with your dairy, you’ll be happy to know that the live bacteria count on kefir is usually higher than yogurt.
You might load up on this salty, savoury soup at your favourite Japanese restaurant, but did you know the miso it contains is a healthy addition to your diet?
Grab a container of this fermented soy paste in the health food, or international section of your grocery store. Not only is it a gut-friendly food, it’s also rich in antioxidant phytochemicals, says Nielsen. Just watch out for the high sodium content.
Salty and briny, pickles are a go-to sandwich topper — and they’re also a probiotic food.
While you might be tempted to run to the grocery store and grab a jar, Nielsen recommends making your own. “When you ferment at home, you have more chance of preserving the live bacteria count within the food.”
If you’d rather drink your daily dose of probiotics, you might like this fizzy fermented tea that has recently grown in popularity.
It might be as bubbly and satisfying as soda, but kombucha is loaded with antioxidants and doesn’t have the same hefty dose of sugar. Nielson often recommends it as a healthy swap for people who want to cut sugary beverages from their diets.
A staple in Korea (and the spiciest fermented food on our list) kimchi is a veggie dish (usually made with cabbage) that has a host of other benefits besides being a probiotic food. “Kimchi has been shown to help lower blood pressure and improve blood glucose and cholesterol levels,” says Nielsen.
You probably already load up your grocery cart with this breakfast favourite, but it’s benefits go beyond calcium.
“Yogurt is probably our most famous fermented food,” says Nielsen. But watch out for artificial ingredients and sugar.
If you want to maximize the health and probiotic benefits of this dietary staple, Nielsen recommends choosing a plain, organic yogurt.