Probiotics are “good” bacteria most often associated with your gut and digestive health, but they are found in many other areas of the body, including the mouth, skin and lungs.
Probiotics are known to aid digestion and can ease related infections like diarrhea. They can also boost your overall immune system and have been linked by some studies to improvements in digestive and mental health disorders, weight loss and more healthy outcomes, though results have been mixed.
It can be tricky to try to add more probiotics to your diet, as food producers aren’t required to list probiotic content on labels, and dietary supplements are not regulated by the FDA. So, it’s difficult to know how effective they are. But here are some of the most probiotic-rich foods you can buy at the market or online today:
It’s been our go-to for L. acidophilus and other good bacteria as long as we can remember and is extremely versatile; available in cold or frozen forms, in smoothies and as dressings and sauces. Look for yogurt products labeled as having “live and active cultures” or, better yet, certified as such by the International Dairy Foods Association. You’ll still need to watch out for added sugars.
This drink consists of cow’s or goat’s milk that’s been fermented with cultures of lactic acid bacteria or yeast, known as kefir grains. It’s an even better source of probiotics than yogurt, containing diverse strains of bacteria and yeast that contribute to a healthy microbiome within your body.
Lactic acid bacteria is also the fermenting agent for this product, made from cabbage. It’s a healthy condiment for meats and sandwiches and ingredient for soups, casseroles, hot dishes, meatballs, strudels and even chocolate cake, though the last may be even more of an acquired taste than sauerkraut by itself! Make sure any store-bought varieties are nonpasteurized.
When cucumbers are brined in salt and water, it results in pickles with high lactic acid bacteria content, low in calories and a great sour snack or ingredient. Pickles made with vinegar, however, don’t have any probiotics so check the label before buying.