10 Probiotic-Rich Foods to Supercharge Your Diet

Most people know that yogurt (at least the unsweetened kind with live cultures) is a healthy option, but few people consider the many other foods rich in beneficial bacteria or yeasts that help boost health. Here are 10 of my favorite probiotic-rich picks to add to your diet, in order of good to great.

10. Kvass

A Russian grain-based drink that is made by adding yeast to bread and water and allowing it to ferment, kvass in most health food stores is often made with beets or carrots instead. While carrot kvass has many of the same nutrients as carrot juice, it usually has much less sugar thanks to microbes that digest the sugar and confer probiotic benefits in the process. If you choose a beet-based kvass, be sure to choose one that is non-genetically-modified since some beets contain GMO.

9. Yogurt

While yogurt gets all the hype and it certainly offers many health benefits, it actually contains fewer probiotics and only a couple of strains of probiotics, making it a good choice but still number 9 on my list. Some yogurt reduces cholesterol and normalizes blood sugar levels; some reduces homocysteine levels which in turn reduces the risk of diseases linked to high levels of this compound, including: heart attack, stroke and diabetes. Yogurt has also been found to reduce the duration of respiratory infections. Vegan yogurt options like almond, cashew or coconut are also excellent choices. Regardless which type of yogurt you select, be sure it is low in sugar since sugar can cause an overgrowth of harmful bacteria or yeasts in the gut, negating many of yogurt’s health benefits. Also, be sure you choose one that contains “live cultures” or is “unpasteurized” since pasteurization kills beneficial microbes.

8. Kefir

Kefir (pronounced ke-FEER) is similar to a drinkable form of yogurt but is much healthier thanks to having ten times more different types of probiotic strains than yogurt. It naturally contains B-vitamins that give an energy boost, aids digestion and helps to regulate blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Research in the Turkish Journal of Gastroenterology found that regular consumption of kefir helped address the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease thanks to its unique probiotic strain known as Lactobacillus kefiri.

7. Kombucha

Kombucha (pronounced kom-BOO-shuh) is a beverage believed to have been made in Russia and China for over 2000 years, although the exact origin is unknown. The bacteria and yeasts that form the kombucha culture form a type of “floating mat” on the surface of the black or green or other type of tea from which it is typically made. It improves immunity against some diseases. According to research, consumption of kombucha has potential for prevention of a broad-spectrum of metabolic and infectious disorders. Additional research published in the journal Food Science and Biotechnology found that kombucha was beneficial in the treatment of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) among animals studied. While it may be premature to assume it will have the same effect on humans, considering its delicious taste and lack of side-effects, it may be worth drinking this beverage on a regular basis.

6. Cheese

Dairy-based cheeses that have been pasteurized and then inoculated with mold or yeast would not normally make my top 10 list. But, since I began creating dairy-free cheeses packed with probiotics, they make the list of top probiotic-rich foods. Keep in mind that even most dairy-free cheeses on the market don’t actually contain any probiotics either. Even some recipe books that include cheese recipes using probiotics tend to heat the cheese prior to completion, which kills the beneficial microbes in it.

But, when vegan cheeses are made with the addition of probiotic cultures and left unheated, they become probiotic powerhouses packed with beneficial microbes to boost your health. (check out “3 Great Vegan Fermented Foods to Make at Home” to learn how to make my Macadamia Cream Cheese or see my book The Cultured Cook for recipes and instructions on making many other probiotic-rich vegan cheeses). These probiotic-rich cheeses usually contain the cultures used to inoculate them so the health benefits can vary widely depending on the probiotic powder or capsule contents used.

5. Pickles

Most pickles have been pasteurized and therefore do not have any probiotics left, if they ever had them at all. The process of pickling foods in white vinegar does not contribute to the development of probiotic cultures; however, fermented vegetables in brine (similar to sauerkraut) does lead to the development of beneficial bacteria and some yeasts that also boost health. My favorites are green beans pickled with chilis or cultured onions. Research in the European Journal of Nutrition found that fermenting vegetables makes the iron more bioavailable and therefore easier for the body to use.

4. Miso

Miso is usually made from fermented soybeans, although there are also rice and chickpea miso as well. A staple in the Japanese diet, miso is rich in vitamins, minerals, protein, good carbs and probiotics (provided it isn’t heated as it often is when used in miso soup). Regular consumption of miso has been linked to protection against cancer. A study published in the Hiroshima Journal of Medical Science found that the long-term consumption of miso on animals with lung cancer could exert cancer-preventive and protective effects. According to multiple studies, including one published in the International Journal of Oncology, regular miso consumption prevents and may even treat lung, liver, breast, colon and liver cancers.

3. Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is one of the most overlooked probiotic-rich superfoods. Lactobacillus plantarum and L. mesenteroides found in this German staple actually fight off harmful infections like E. coli. L. plantarum has anti-viral effects, making it a potential ally in treating colds, flu, ebola, HIV, chronic fatigue syndrome or other viral conditions. Additionally, when cabbage is fermented as it is during the traditional making of sauerkraut, its nutrients, known as glucosinolates, transform into the powerhouse anticancer nutrients known as isothiocyanates. Researchers have found that isothiocyanates balance excessive hormone production linked to breast cancer and even suppress tumor growth.

Keep in mind that any probiotic-rich food needs to contain “live cultures” and be “unpasteurized.” If a product does not have either of these claims on the label, it is best avoided. Additionally, probiotic-rich foods need to be refrigerated. If you find them on the shelves in the center aisles of your grocery store that means the product has been pasteurized for preservation and no longer offers any of the benefits of live cultures.

2. Curtido

An El Salvadorian condiment, curtido is like a cross between salsa and kimchi. Like kimchi, it is packed with a wide range of probiotic strains and plentiful amounts of them. It has many of the same health benefits as kimchi (see below) thanks to similar strains and ingredients. Because it contains cabbage it also offers the health benefits of sauerkraut. And, its ginger content really gives it potent anti-inflammatory activity, in addition to making it taste delicious. The first time I made curtido it became my favorite fermented food. It makes a great addition to wraps, sandwiches, burgers, rice bowls, salads or your favorite veggie hot dog.

1. Kimchi

Kimchi may be the medicine of the future. The national dish of Korea, typically a fermented mixture of cabbage, chilis and garlic is demonstrating powerful immune-boosting effects as well as the ability to kill some superbugs, even when antibiotics fail. Research in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that kimchi offers a host of health-building properties, including anticancer properties, anti-obesity benefits, anticonstipation, colorectal health promotion, cholesterol reduction, fibrolytic effects (a process that prevents blood clots from growing), antioxidant and anti-aging properties. Add kimchi to rice bowls, sandwiches, burgers, wraps or salads for a delicious and spicy flavor and health booster.

For more information, consult my book The Cultured Cook: Delicious Fermented Foods with Probiotics to Knock Out Inflammation, Boost Gut Health, Lose Weight & Extend Your Life.

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Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM shares her food growing, cooking, preserving, and other food self-sufficiency adventures at FoodHouseProject.com. She is the publisher of the free e-newsletter World’s Healthiest News and an international best-selling and 20-time published book author whose works include: The Cultured Cook: Delicious Fermented Foods with Probiotics to Knock Out Inflammation, Boost Gut Health, Lose Weight & Extend Your Life. Follow her work.

 

227 comments

Gabriel C
Gino C9 days ago

Thank you for posting

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Val Pla11 days ago

ok

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Paula M
Paula A23 days ago

TYFS

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Anna R
Anna Rabout a month ago

Thanks for sharing

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hELEN hEARFIELD
hELEN habout a month ago

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Lizzy O
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many thanks

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Lizzy O
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many thanks

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Jacob Sabout a month ago

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Paula M
Paula Aabout a month ago

Thank you for posting

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Emma L
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thank you

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