18 Probiotic Foods for Gut Health

Gut health is a trending topic these days with the gut microbiome taking the spotlight.

The human body contains trillions of species of bacteria, fungi, and other viruses; outnumbering human cells by an impressive 10 to 1.1

The gut microbiome is the ecology, or ‘environment’, within the gut, and what we consume has the biggest impact on what organisms are present.2

Probiotics are live microorganisms consumed for their health benefits to the human microbiome.3 Live bacteria are present and help to populate the gut with colonies of beneficial bacteria.

Probiotics can be consumed in supplement form or found in fermented and cultured food sources.

Read on for a list of 18 gut-healthy probiotic foods!

18 Probiotic Foods for Gut Health

1) Kimchi

Kimchi is a Korean food, produced by fermenting vegetables with beneficial probiotic lactic acid (LAB) and is typically served with steamed rice.4

The fermentation process of Kimchi is shown to have anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-obesity, and antiaging properties.5

2) Sauerkraut

High in vitamin C and minerals, Sauerkraut is a nutritious dietary choice made from chopped pickled cabbage.6

A study on 34 Norwegian IBS patients saw a vast improvement in gastrointestinal symptoms and a noticeable improvement in their gut microbiome after six weeks of daily sauerkraut intake.7

3) Kefir

Kefir is produced from culturing kefir grains to produce a milky creamy probiotic drink.

The drink produces a mix of beneficial yeast and bacteria, working symbiotically to improve cholesterol and insulin levels as well as containing antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.8

Kefir can simply be digested as a milky drink, turned into kefir cheese, or even added as part of a probiotic potato salad.

4) Tempeh

Tempeh is a highly digestible form of soybeans, created by fermenting soybeans to produce beneficial fungal strains. It is also a great plant-based high protein food source.

Soy products such as tempeh have been shown to improve hormone deficiency during menopause and help with the symptoms experienced.9

5) Natto

Natto is a traditional Japanese food, produced from soybeans fermented with Bacillus subtilis var. natto.

Be advised with Natto; it is (potentially infamously) known for its potent smell, strong taste, and sticky slimy texture. It can be described as the marmite of probiotic foods.

Natto also contains 100 times more vitamin K2 than cheese!10

6) Yoghurt

Fermented yoghurt contains protein, calcium, magnesium, B-12, conjugated linoleic acid, and key fatty acids making it a highly nutrient-dense food source.

The nutritional profile of yoghurt enhances nutrient absorption and digestion.11

Probiotic-rich yoghurt may improve insulin resistance and glucose levels in those with type 2 diabetes.12

7) Kombucha

Kombucha is a sweetened and fermented black tea, originating from China.
It has been shown to enhance liver function and stimulate the immune system.13

8) Miso

Popular in Asian food, Miso is a paste made from fermented soy.
It contains large amounts of ‘good’ fungi, A. oryzae, researched for its digestive enhancing properties.

8) Green Olives

Green olives are olives that are harvested before they are fully ripe.
Green olives have been studied for their rich source of Lactobacillus strains, known for their antifungal benefits.14

9) Beet Kvass

A Russian tonic made from fermenting wheat or rye bread; beet kvass is a probiotic tonic using water as a culture to ferment beetroots.

Kvass has a wide range of nutrients including manganese and B12 and is studied for its potential anticancer properties.15

10) Pickled Gherkins

Pickled gherkins, another food source either loved or hated are known for their distinct bitter taste.

Gherkins are generally fermented with beneficial bacteria Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus pentosus and Lactobacillus paraplantarum.16

11) Coconut Kefir

For those who are lactose intolerant, coconut kefir is a great dairy-free alternative.

12) Buttermilk

Buttermilk is a pale yellow, slightly sour liquid which is leftover after butter has been churned.

This probiotic food source contains healthy fatty acids and proteins.17

13) Sourdough

Most popularly used in trendy social media brunch posts, the fermentation process of wheat and rye bread to make sourdough makes it a highly digestible and highly nutritious food form.

The high levels of BCAAs and peptides in sourdough bread have been shown to reduce insulin resistance and may be beneficial for those with cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.18

14) Cottage Cheese

Made from the curds of skimmed milk, cottage cheese is soft white lumps with a mild flavour and high casein content.

Cottage cheese has been shown to beneficially improve the gut microbiota and support probiotic bacteria growth in the gut.19

15) Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar can be used as a digestive aid and includes potent digestive enzymes, beneficial to increase nutrient absorption from foods.

It is important to source an apple cider vinegar ‘with the mother’ to ensure you are getting all the vital probiotic enzymes for digestive benefits.

15) Umeboshi Plums

Umeboshi plums are fermented for six months and are a sour treat, found in Japanese cuisine.

16) Raw Milk

Raw milk is an unpasteurised form, in which the process keeps bacteria strains present in the milk safe from heat damage.

Although raw milk has a rich nutritional profile, it is important to know where it is sourced from, as contaminated raw milk can harbour pathogenic strains.20

17) Lassi

A popular drink in India and Pakistan, Lassi is made with fermented yoghurt and fruits.

The symbiotic nature of fruit with yoghurt boosts digestive and nutrient absorption of their ingredients.

18) Pickled Cucumbers

Pickled cucumbers are left to soak in salted water and are a great source of probiotics and vitamin K.

Looking for prebiotic foods for gut health? Check out this article!

References

1. NIH Human Microbiome Project defines normal bacterial makeup of the body | National Institutes of Health (NIH)

2. Influence of diet on the gut microbiome and implications for human health - PubMed (nih.gov)

3. Probiotics: What You Need To Know | NCCIH (nih.gov) 

4. Health benefits of kimchi (Korean fermented vegetables) as a probiotic food - PubMed (nih.gov)

5. Kimchi and Other Widely Consumed Traditional Fermented Foods of Korea: A Review - PubMed (nih.gov)

6. Sauerkraut - ScienceDirect

7. Lacto-fermented sauerkraut improves symptoms in IBS patients independent of product pasteurisation - a pilot study - PubMed (nih.gov)

8. Milk kefir: nutritional, microbiological and health benefits - PubMed (nih.gov)

9. Soy and phytoestrogens: possible side effects - PubMed (nih.gov)

10. Usual dietary intake of fermented soybeans (Natto) is associated with bone mineral density in premenopausal women - PubMed (nih.gov)

11. Potential Health Benefits of Combining Yogurt and Fruits Based on Their Probiotic and Prebiotic Properties - PubMed (nih.gov)

12. The Effect of Probiotic Yogurt on Glycemic Control in Type 2 Diabetes or Obesity: A Meta-Analysis of Nine Randomized Controlled Trials - PubMed (nih.gov)

13. A Review on Kombucha Tea—Microbiology, Composition, Fermentation, Beneficial Effects, Toxicity, and Tea Fungus - Jayabalan - 2014 - Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety - Wiley Online Library

14. Characterization of Probiotic Properties of Antifungal Lactobacillus Strains Isolated from Traditional Fermenting Green Olives - PubMed (nih.gov)

15. Kvass: How to Make this Russian Probiotic Drink - Dr. Axe (draxe.com)

16. Culture fermentation of Lactobacillus in traditional pickled gherkins: Microbial development, chemical, biogenic amine and metabolite analysis - PubMed (nih.gov)

17. The effect of buttermilk or buttermilk powder addition on functionality, textural, sensory and volatile characteristics of Cheddar-style cheese - PubMed (nih.gov)

18. Metabolic profiling of sourdough fermented wheat and rye bread - PubMed (nih.gov)

19. Probiotic-enriched milk and dairy products increase gut microbiota diversity: a comparative study - PubMed (nih.gov)

20. The complex microbiota of raw milk - PubMed (nih.gov)

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