10 Probiotic Foods That You Should be Eating for Your Gut!

Medically reviewed by July 01, 2024| Written by

10 Probiotic Foods That You Should be Eating for Your Gut!

Your body is home to trillions of microbes, including bacteria, fungi, viruses, and several others. Probiotics are beneficial microbes that primarily reside in your gastrointestinal tract and support many bodily functions like digestion,gut health, and fighting off pathogenic bacteria.

However, some harmful bacterial populations within the gut may contribute to the progression of some diseases. But overall your body has a natural balance of good and bad bacteria. 

Several health conditions and antibiotic treatments result in dysbiosis - an imbalance of bacterial populations and the loss of good bacteria. According to severalstudies, dysbiosis can lead to health problems such as inflammatory bowel disease,obesity, diabetes, and cancer. 

Probiotic foods and supplements contain healthy bacteria and help manage dysbiosis. Consuming probiotics will add to the population of healthy bacteria in the gut.

What Exactly Does a Probiotic Do? 

Probiotics promote a healthy balance of gut bacteria. These microbes have a role in different body functions, which include:

1. Improved Digestive Health

Probiotics mainly reside in the digestive tract—in the gut—and directly influence digestive health. 

Research shows that probiotic bacteria promote the integrity of the epithelial lining, which is found on the inner walls of the digestive tract. Healthy epithelial lining protects against disease-causing bacteria and chemicals inside the digestive system, promoting digestive health.

Studies also show that probiotics are effective in preventing antibiotic-associated diarrhea. They are also found effective in managing gastric ulcers and inflammatory bowel disease.

2. Support Immune System

Probiotics support the immune system in the fight against pathogenic bacteria in the body. 

According to thestudies, probiotics compete with pathogenic bacteria for nutrients and receptors in the host body, making it difficult for the pathogenic bacteria to survive. Another mechanism of action of probiotics against pathogenic bacteria is the production ofanti-microbial substances, which inhibit the growth of pathogens. 

Astudy shows that probiotics also stimulate the intestinal immune cells against pathogens for immediate immune response.

3. Other Uses of Probiotics

Some of the other scientifically proven benefits of probiotics include:

Which Food is Probiotics?

Knowing about the health benefits of probiotics, you might be looking for ways to consume probiotics. Probiotic supplements are one of the options for feeding probiotics to your body. 

However, if you are looking for natural ways to get probiotics, here are some probiotic foods to include in your diet:

1. Kefir

Kefir is a fermented milk drink similar in texture to yogurt. It is made by adding kefir grains to milk from a natural source, such as a cow or goat. Kefir grains are clusters of bacteria and yeasts that ferment the milk.

Bacteria present in kefir grains are mainly lactic acid bacteria, and they feed on the lactose in the milk for their growth. So, as the end product, you get a fermented drink rich in probiotics but low in lactose. 

Low lactose in kefir makes it a suitable probiotic food choice for lactose intolerants.

Kefir has many potential benefits besides adding to the good gut bacteria population.Research shows that it improves cholesterol metabolism, wound healing, and immune response. Astudy also revealed that it effectively lowers blood glucose levels and can be used as a complementary treatment for diabetes. 

2. Yogurt

Yogurt is among the dairy products you will find in almost everyone’s basket at a grocery store. People have integrated it into their diet even if they don’t know about its health benefits. 

Lactic acid bacteria ferment milk to make yogurt. Differenttypes of yogurt are based on fat content and the bacterial strains involved in fermentation. 

Yogurt is an easy food option to incorporate into your diet and get the required probiotics. It is also a nutrient-rich food option, having proteins, vitamins, and minerals. It is rich in calcium, which is necessary for the growth and development of bones and teeth. According to areview, 50g of yogurt (which is less than 4 oz!) provides around 41% of the daily required calcium for a 5-year-old child. 

3. Cheese

The making of cheese starts with culturing milk with lactic acid bacteria. An enzymerennet is added to curdle the milk. The curd is then cut, cooked, salted, and left to age in controlled conditions.

Although cheese-making involves fermentation, not all types of cheese are probiotic or contain active cultures. When searching for the probiotic cheese, look for the product label, whether it says “active cultures.” 

Research shows that probiotic cheese helps against gastrointestinal infections, inflammatory bowel disease, anddiarrhea. It is also effective for lactose metabolism and reducing cholesterol levels. 

4. Fermented Pickles

The making of pickles, which you mostly find in grocery stores, involves adding cucumber to a vinegar brine. Salt and spices are added to the brine to give it a salty and sour taste. However, this pickle doesn’t contain probiotics.

Fermented pickles use salt brine instead of vinegar brine. The salt brine promotes the growth of bacteria, which ferments the natural sugar in the cucumber. 

Fermented pickles supply lactic acid bacteria and other healthy bacteria to your gut, improvinggut health and digestion.Studies also show that fermented pickles act as immune boosters and prevent cellular damage. 

5. Sourdough Bread

Bread is a part of breakfast in different countries around the world. Most people use commercially produced, highly processed breads that are associated with varioushealth risks.

Unlike other processed breads, sourdough bread doesn’t use baker’s yeast — a commercially used baking ingredient — for fermentation. To make sourdough bread, wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria are added to the flour dough to perform fermentation. 

Bread made this way can be a healthy replacement for commercially produced bread.Probiotics in sourdough bread improve gastrointestinal health and provide other health benefits. 

This type of fermentationlowers the glycemic index of bread, making it less likely to cause glucose spikes. Thestudy shows that sourdough breads are highly nutritional and easy for our digestive system to process. 

6. Kimchi

Kimchi is a traditional Korean side dish made by mixing cabbage with different spices. The mixture is then packed and left for fermentation. Lactic acid bacteria is the primary strain involved in the fermentation of kimchi.

As a fermented food, kimchi feeds good bacteria to your gut. This probiotic food is rich in healthy ingredients and has many other health benefits. 

Research shows that kimchi has anticancer, antiobesity, and antioxidative properties. It is also effective in promoting brain health and immune functioning. 

7. Miso 

Miso and its by-products are popular fermented foods in Japanese cuisine. Miso is made when Fungi (koji) and bacteria ferment the salted soybean paste. The fermented paste is then used to make a variety of other foods, such as miso soup and miso rice. 

Miso is a nutrient-rich probiotic food with plenty of scientifically proven health benefits.Research shows that miso can prevent inflammation by E. coli, a major cause ofstomach ulcers. Besides being effective against gastrointestinal diseases,miso possesses anticancer, antiobesity, and anti-inflammatory properties. 

8. Tempeh

Like miso, tempeh is commonly consumed in Southeast Asia. It is made by fermenting soybeans, where microorganisms ferment the soybeans to produce a cake-like product — tempeh. You can consume tempeh directly or include it in other recipes.

Tempeh is a protein-rich probiotic food that vegans use as a replacement for meat. According to theUSDA, 100 g of fresh tempeh contains up to 20 g of proteins. 

Thehealth benefits of tempeh include its anti-diabetic effect, cholesterol-lowering properties, improved cognitive functioning, anti-aging effects, and improved gut health.

9. Kombucha

Kombucha is a fermented tea commonly consumed in some Asian countries. It is made by fermenting black or green tea with a Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast - aka SCOBY.

Kombucha is more than just a tea; it provides thebenefits of tea along with several other health benefits. As a source of probiotics, it helps in the composition of good gut bacteria and promotes digestive health.Studies have shown that kombucha has anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-oxidant properties.

10. Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is a popular food in Germany, and people there like to consume it as a part of their meal. The making of sauerkraut involves maxing shredded cabbage with salt and letting the mixture ferment in a suitable environment.

In fermentation, the bacteria grow by feeding on the natural sugar in cabbage. It makes the sauerkraut a probiotic-rich food, and consuming it will give your body a supply of probiotics.

As a probiotic source, it improves gut flora, facilitates digestion, and supports immune function.Research shows Sauerkraut is also rich in vitamins A, B, C, and K, making it a great antioxidative food. 

Sauerkraut contains plenty of fiber, which has prebiotic properties — food for probiotics in the gut. Dietary fiber facilitates thegrowth and diversity of microbiota in the gut. 

Do Probiotics Feed on Fiber?

Scientific studies have shown that fiber offers a wide range of health benefits. It mainly promotes gastrointestinal health and provides relief from gastrointestinal conditions. Many of these benefits come fromfiber's influence on the probiotics in the gut.

Dietary fiber remains undigested in the upper digestive tract and reaches the gut. Here, probiotics feed on certain types of fiber to support their growth and diversity. These fibers are calledprebiotic dietary fibers

Probiotics also ferment fiber to produce valuable products, such as short-chain fatty acids.Research shows that short-chain fatty acids produced by probiotics help againstinflammation and promote immune system activity. 

Can You Take Probiotics and Fiber Together?

You have studied the benefits of fiber and probiotics separately, but taking them together enhances their effects. Probiotics help regulate bacterial balance in the digestive system and add to the population of good gut bacteria. 

However, taking fiber with probiotics will enhance their activity and efficiency. Prebiotic fiber is a nutritional source for probiotics and helps them grow and diversify. 

Studies show that prebiotic fiber results in structural and functional changes in the bacteria that are part of normal flora. These changes result in health benefits for the host. The same study also reveals that a combination of prebiotics and probiotics is effective against viral diseases. 

You can get fiber from plant-based sources such as vegetables and fruits to promote the activity of probiotics in the body. Another convenient option is buyingpowdered fiber with prebiotics and probiotics.

Conclusion

For a long time, bacteria were only associated with diseases. But with research and scientific advancement, we now know that our gut contains healthy bacteria or probiotics, which can provide many health benefits. 

Including probiotics in your diet is a natural way to supply healthy bacteria to your gut. There are plenty of food options that are rich in probiotics. Some probiotic foods are readily available in grocery stores, while others you can make at home. Also, remember that taking fiber with probiotics will result in improved outcomes of probiotics.