Your Guide to the Best Probiotic Foods

You probably try your best to follow a healthy diet which includes a wide range of nutrients – but is your food alive? In other words, do you include foods with probiotics in your diet?

Los alimentos probióticos son productos de lo más interesante. Contienen microorganismos (bacterias y hongos) capaces de mejorar tu salud. ¿Cómo lo hacen? No te pierdas este nuevo artículo, ¡te contaremos todos los secretos de estos alimentos tan saludables!

Key Ideas

  • Probiotic foods contain microorganisms which can help improve your health.
  • The best probiotic foods include yogurt, kefir, kombucha, natto, and anything pickled.
  • If you compare these foods to probiotic supplements, however, you’ll find that supplements offer higher concentrations of the “good” microorganisms. Plus, they’re easier to preserve and they travel better.

The Best Probiotic Foods

Probiotic foods tend to contain “good” bacteria or fungi. These feed on the product’s ingredients and convert them into other substances, a process we call fermentation. That’s how nutritious products high in probiotics are produced!

Let’s take a look at the most interesting foods with probiotics (1):

FoodNutrition Facts
YogurtMinimum required probiotics: Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus
Vitamin A
B vitamins
Calcium
Proteins
Soft cheesesProbiotics: Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium
Vitamin A and vitamin B12
Minerals: calcium, phosphorus, selenium
Proteins
Fats
Pickled foodsProbiotics: Pediococcus pentosaceus and Lactobacillus
Vitamin A and vitamin K
Minerals: calcium, sodium, potassium, magnesium
KefirSymbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast (SCOBY): Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Streptococcus termophilus, Saccharomyce, and others
Vitamins A, C, and B
B vitamins
Minerals: calcium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium
Proteins
KombuchaSymbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast (SCOBY) (Acetobacter, Saccharomyces, and others)
B vitamins
Tea antioxidants
Sugar
Alcohol
NattoSpecial probiotic: Bacillus subtilis natto
Vitamin C, B9 (folate), and K
Minerals: calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium
Essential nutrients: choline, omega-3, omega-6
Fibre

Yogurt

By definition, yogurt must contain live probiotic bacteria. In other words, yogurt is the name we give milk fermented by two specific probiotics, Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. Otherwise, we would have a dairy drink or fermented milk, but not technically yogurt.

But what function do yogurt’s probiotics serve? The main benefit of these bacteria is their ability to create easier-to-digest products. What results is a nutrient-rich food full of calcium, vitamins, and proteins which the body absorbs optimally.

Studies have also shown that replacing unhealthy foods like candy and pastry with yogurt is a great idea. This change in habits can help you control your weight and reduce your future odds of becoming diabetic (2).

Soft Cheeses

Seriously? Even cheese has probiotics? Well, only a few varieties. Gouda, cheddar, mozzarella, and cottage cheese all contain enough live probiotic bacteria to qualify. These are unpasteurised, non-sterilised cheeses, not suited for pregnant women or people with compromised immune defenses (3, 4, 5).

On top of probiotics, these cheeses provide vitamins (including A and B12), calcium, and phosphorus. Avoid overindulging, however, if you’re looking to reduce your fat or sodium intake.

Mozzarella cheese is considered a probiotic food. (Source: Schwarz: h9uj97spfze/ Unsplash.com)

Pickled Foods

What can survive living in a saltwater solution? Very special microorganisms, as it turns out! When food is submerged in water and salt (but not vinegar, which kills bacteria), certain microorganisms proliferate. These help preserve the products for months on end.

Pickles, sauerkraut, and kimchi are good examples of this. They’re high in vitamin K, a nutrient our bodies use to cure wounds, protect our bones, and care for our arteries.

Plus, these probiotic foods can keep us healthier overall. Kimchi, for example, contains anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. It’s also anti-hypertensive, meaning it helps lower blood pressure. In fact, this Korean staple could be one of the world’s healthiest meals (6)!

Kefir

Have you heard of kefir, one of the world’s most ancient probiotic foods? This fermented milk beverage has been drunk for centuries in what is now Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia. It can be distinguished from yogurt by its liquid consistency and its probiotic content.

Kefir is produced by a group of microorganisms labeled SCOBY, or Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast. These organisms group together in granules of kefir, or “nodules”, and can then be used to create new batches of the product.

Plus, kefir offers a wider variety of probiotics than yogurt. It can help modify your intestinal flora and keep your liver healthy. It may also prevent premature aging. As if that weren’t enough, it could have anti-obesity effects. Incredible, isn’t it (7, 8, 9)?

Kefir is high in probiotics. (Source: Leonard: oskutqad72m/ Unsplash.com)

Kombucha

To create kombucha, mixed colonies of microorganisms (SCOBYs) are also used. These cultivars then ferment green or black tea to create a delicious drink. It’s high in anti-aging compounds like polyphenols and flavonoids.

Some studies have also claimed that this drink may reduce cholesterol and help remove toxins. However, more viable results are still needed before accepting this hypothesis (10, 11).

Natto

Natto is a traditional Japanese breakfast food made from fermented soybeans. High in calcium, magnesium, and vitamin K, it’s produced by adding the Bacillus subtilis natto bacteria to soybeans.

This bacteria can certainly have positive effects on our intestinal flora. Natto also contains a compound called nattokinasa which could reduce blood pressure and even break up blood clots. Some experts have even wondered if natto could be the secret to high Japanese life expectancies (12)!

Probiotic foods contain microorganisms which can help improve your health. (Source: Curtis: mfv1fhwbkdi/ Unsplash.com)

What You Need to Know About Probiotic Foods

Consuming probiotic foods will help you include “good” microorganisms in your diet. Pay close attention to this section, since it covers the questions that will help you maximise probiotics’ benefits!

What Are the Benefits of Probiotic Foods?

The effects of each individual product will depend on the strain or “family” of probiotics they contain. However, these foods generally have a few virtues in common (13, 14, 15):

  • Easier Digestion: Probiotic bacteria ferments food and makes it easier to digest. As a result, the body absorbs nutrients better.
  • Strong Defenses: It has been shown that consuming probiotics can lower the odds of diarrhoea after a course of antibiotic treatment.
  • Farewell, Cholesterol: Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium probiotics may reduce your cholesterol levels, helping keep your arteries healthy.

However, further study is required to confirm these benefits. Do not use probiotics foods as a replacement for medical attention.

The best probiotic foods include yogurt, kefir, kombucha, natto, and pickled products. (Source: Counsell: efju9skijla/ Unsplash.com)

How Many Probiotic Servings Should I Eat in a Day?

Including one or two daily servings of food high in probiotics will suffice. Add a yogurt to your breakfast or pickled vegetables to your salad! Incorporate them into your routine, and soon you’ll be eating these foods without any conscious effort.

What Probiotic Foods Can Vegans Eat?

Do you follow the compassionate diet? If so, stay away from milk-based probiotic foods like yogurt and kefir. Opt for the soy-based alternatives and include pickled vegetables in your diet. Omnivore diets won’t have any advantage over yours if you do!

How Should I Preserve Probiotic Foods?

To enjoy all the beneficial effects of probiotic foods, keep them refrigerated and avoid exposing them to air and sunlight. Do not cook them, as this will deactivate and “kill” the probiotics.

Along similar lines, pasteurised products are not good sources of probiotics. The pasteurisation process uses heat to destroy germs. However, the process also kills the “good” bacteria. Read the labeling on your food and opt for the unpasteurised cheeses and yogurts to increase your probiotic intake kb_citation id=”14″].

Probiotic foods contain microorganisms which can help improve your health. (Source: Brandt: mmsqugmlquo/ Unsplash.com)

Are There Any Risks to Probiotic Foods?

People with normal immune systems can eat probiotic foods with no fear. However, pregnant women, very young children, and people with compromised immune systems could develop serious infections as a result of these products.

These groups should eat pasteurised or cooked foods which have had all microorganisms removed. If you belong to one of these groups and wish to incorporate probiotics into your diet, ask a healthcare professional (5, 16).

Are Probiotic Foods As Effective As Supplements?

Probiotic foods can enrich your diet and offer beneficial, healthy bacteria. However, they differ from probiotic supplements in multiple key ways (14):

  • Food will not let you consume exact daily quantities of probiotics.
  • Any change in food’s temperature or acidity can destroy the probiotics.
  • Food generally does not provides less probiotic content per serving than supplements.
  • Supplements allow more probiotics to enter our bodies active or “live, especially if they use microcapsule formulas which protect nutrients from digestive acids.

If you need probiotic treatment, therefore, we suggest you seek a doctor’s advice. Probiotic foods may improve your overall health but will not be as potent as these incredible supplements.

Our Conclusions

Probiotic foods contain beneficial microorganisms which ferment and “process” products to help us digest them better. If that’s not enough, probiotics also have the ability to enhance our overall health.

These foods may not be as effective as a probiotic supplement. However, you can still include them in your diet to improve your digestion, keep your cholesterol within healthy range, and prevent premature aging. Try more foods with probiotics – what are you waiting for?

Are you a fan of foods with probiotics? Feel free to tell us about your experiences, and don’t forget to share this article.

References (16)

1. Departamento de Agricultura de Estados Unidos (USDA). FoodData Central . FoodData Central. 2019 [cited 2020 Apr 8]. p. fdc.nal.usda.gov.
Source

2. Fernandez MA, Marette A. Potential health benefits of combining yogurt and fruits based on their probiotic and prebiotic properties. Adv Nutr . 2017 ;8(1):155S-164S.
Source

3. Ganesan B, Weimer BC, Pinzon J, Dao Kong N, Rompato G, Brothersen C, et al. Probiotic bacteria survive in Cheddar cheese and modify populations of other lactic acid bacteria. J Appl Microbiol . 2014 ;116(6):1642–56.
Source

4. Castro JM, Tornadijo ME, Fresno JM, Sandoval H. Biocheese: A food probiotic carrier. Vol. 2015, BioMed Research International. Hindawi Publishing Corporation; 2015 .
Source

5. Taylor M, Galanis E. Food safety during pregnancy . Vol. 56, Canadian Family Physician. College of Family Physicians of Canada; 2010 . p. 750–1.
Source

6. Choi IH, Noh JS, Han JS, Kim HJ, Han ES, Song YO. Kimchi, a Fermented Vegetable, improves serum lipid profiles in healthy young adults: Randomized clinical trial. J Med Food . 2013 Mar 1 ;16(3):223–9.
Source

7. Lim J, Kale M, Kim DH, Kim HS, Chon JW, Seo KH, et al. Antiobesity Effect of Exopolysaccharides Isolated from Kefir Grains. J Agric Food Chem . 2017 Nov 22 ;65(46):10011–9.
Source

8. Bellikci-Koyu E, Sarer-Yurekli BP, Akyon Y, Aydin-Kose F, Karagozlu C, Ozgen AG, et al. Effects of regular kefir consumption on gut microbiota in patients with metabolic syndrome: A parallel-group, randomized, controlled study. Nutrients . 2019 Sep 1 ;11(9).
Source

9. Farag MA, Jomaa SA, El-wahed AA, El-seedi HR. The many faces of kefir fermented dairy products: Quality characteristics, flavour chemistry, nutritional value, health benefits, and safety . Vol. 12, Nutrients. MDPI AG; 2020
Source

10. Leal JM, Suárez LV, Jayabalan R, Oros JH, Escalante-Aburto A. A review on health benefits of kombucha nutritional compounds and metabolites. CYTA – J Food . 2018 Jan 12 ;16(1):390–9.
Source

11. Gaggìa F, Baffoni L, Galiano M, Nielsen DS, Jakobsen RR, Castro-Mejía JL, et al. Kombucha beverage from green, black and rooibos teas: A comparative study looking at microbiology, chemistry and antioxidant activity. Nutrients . 2019 Jan 1 ;11(1).
Source

12. Ayala FR, Bauman C, Cogliati S, Leñini C, Bartolini M, Grau R. Microbial flora, probiotics, bacillus subtilis and the search for a long and healthy human longevity . Vol. 4, Microbial Cell. Shared Science Publishers OG; 2017 . p. 133–6.
Source

13. Wang L, Guo MJ, Gao Q, Yang JF, Yang L, Pang XL, et al. The effects of probiotics on total cholesterol. Med (United States). 2018 Feb 1 ;97(5).
Source

14. Kechagia M, Basoulis D, Konstantopoulou S, Dimitriadi D, Gyftopoulou K, Skarmoutsou N, et al. Health Benefits of Probiotics: A Review. ISRN Nutr . 2013 ;2013:1–7.
Source

15. Beniwal RS, Arena VC, Thomas L, Narla S, Imperiale TF, Chaudhry RA, et al. A Randomized Trial of Yogurt for Prevention of Antibiotic-Associated Diarrhea. Dig Dis Sci . 2003 Oct ;48(10):2077–82.
Source

16. Didari T, Solki S, Mozaffari S, Nikfar S, Abdollahi M. A systematic review of the safety of probiotics. Vol. 13, Expert Opinion on Drug Safety. Expert Opin Drug Saf; 2014 . p. 227–39.
Source

Official USDA website
Departamento de Agricultura de Estados Unidos (USDA). FoodData Central . FoodData Central. 2019 [cited 2020 Apr 8]. p. fdc.nal.usda.gov.
Go to source
Scientific article
Fernandez MA, Marette A. Potential health benefits of combining yogurt and fruits based on their probiotic and prebiotic properties. Adv Nutr . 2017 ;8(1):155S-164S.
Go to source
Scientific article
Ganesan B, Weimer BC, Pinzon J, Dao Kong N, Rompato G, Brothersen C, et al. Probiotic bacteria survive in Cheddar cheese and modify populations of other lactic acid bacteria. J Appl Microbiol . 2014 ;116(6):1642–56.
Go to source
Scientific article
Castro JM, Tornadijo ME, Fresno JM, Sandoval H. Biocheese: A food probiotic carrier. Vol. 2015, BioMed Research International. Hindawi Publishing Corporation; 2015 .
Go to source
Scientific article
Taylor M, Galanis E. Food safety during pregnancy . Vol. 56, Canadian Family Physician. College of Family Physicians of Canada; 2010 . p. 750–1.
Go to source
Scientific article
Choi IH, Noh JS, Han JS, Kim HJ, Han ES, Song YO. Kimchi, a Fermented Vegetable, improves serum lipid profiles in healthy young adults: Randomized clinical trial. J Med Food . 2013 Mar 1 ;16(3):223–9.
Go to source
Scientific article
Lim J, Kale M, Kim DH, Kim HS, Chon JW, Seo KH, et al. Antiobesity Effect of Exopolysaccharides Isolated from Kefir Grains. J Agric Food Chem . 2017 Nov 22 ;65(46):10011–9.
Go to source
Human study
Bellikci-Koyu E, Sarer-Yurekli BP, Akyon Y, Aydin-Kose F, Karagozlu C, Ozgen AG, et al. Effects of regular kefir consumption on gut microbiota in patients with metabolic syndrome: A parallel-group, randomized, controlled study. Nutrients . 2019 Sep 1 ;11(9).
Go to source
Scientific article
Farag MA, Jomaa SA, El-wahed AA, El-seedi HR. The many faces of kefir fermented dairy products: Quality characteristics, flavour chemistry, nutritional value, health benefits, and safety . Vol. 12, Nutrients. MDPI AG; 2020
Go to source
Scientific article
Leal JM, Suárez LV, Jayabalan R, Oros JH, Escalante-Aburto A. A review on health benefits of kombucha nutritional compounds and metabolites. CYTA – J Food . 2018 Jan 12 ;16(1):390–9.
Go to source
Scientific article
Gaggìa F, Baffoni L, Galiano M, Nielsen DS, Jakobsen RR, Castro-Mejía JL, et al. Kombucha beverage from green, black and rooibos teas: A comparative study looking at microbiology, chemistry and antioxidant activity. Nutrients . 2019 Jan 1 ;11(1).
Go to source
Scientific article
Ayala FR, Bauman C, Cogliati S, Leñini C, Bartolini M, Grau R. Microbial flora, probiotics, bacillus subtilis and the search for a long and healthy human longevity . Vol. 4, Microbial Cell. Shared Science Publishers OG; 2017 . p. 133–6.
Go to source
Scientific article
Wang L, Guo MJ, Gao Q, Yang JF, Yang L, Pang XL, et al. The effects of probiotics on total cholesterol. Med (United States). 2018 Feb 1 ;97(5).
Go to source
Scientific article
Kechagia M, Basoulis D, Konstantopoulou S, Dimitriadi D, Gyftopoulou K, Skarmoutsou N, et al. Health Benefits of Probiotics: A Review. ISRN Nutr . 2013 ;2013:1–7.
Go to source
Human study
Beniwal RS, Arena VC, Thomas L, Narla S, Imperiale TF, Chaudhry RA, et al. A Randomized Trial of Yogurt for Prevention of Antibiotic-Associated Diarrhea. Dig Dis Sci . 2003 Oct ;48(10):2077–82.
Go to source
Systematic review
Didari T, Solki S, Mozaffari S, Nikfar S, Abdollahi M. A systematic review of the safety of probiotics. Vol. 13, Expert Opinion on Drug Safety. Expert Opin Drug Saf; 2014 . p. 227–39.
Go to source
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