The 8 Best Probiotic Foods of 2021, According to a Dietitian

Boost your beneficial bacteria intake through food

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Our Top Picks
"Packed with health benefits and nutrients, it's also organic, gluten-free, and lactose-free."
"This contains billions of probiotics per serving from live and active cultures."
"This is actually skyr, a thick, creamy Icelandic-style yogurt that’s high in protein."
"It's up to 99 percent lactose-free, non-GMO, Certified Gluten-Free, and contains 12 live and active probiotic cultures."
"They ferment their sauerkraut with live and raw probiotics."
"It’s similar to tofu but has a nuttier taste and firmer, chewier texture."
"Authentic and probiotic-rich, it's made using traditional methods that give it deeper flavors and a more balanced fermentation."
"This kombucha is vegan, Certified Gluten-Free, Certified USDA Organic, and non-GMO."

Probiotics are live microorganisms that have health benefits when we consume them regularly. These healthy microbes play an essential role in keeping our gut and digestive health in check. 

Taking a probiotic supplement can have beneficial effects on our health, but you can also get probiotics by eating real, whole foods. Fermented foods are a great source of probiotics because they are made with live and active cultures, which are various strains of probiotics. Eating fermented foods is the most natural way to add probiotics to your diet. 

There is no formal recommendation for daily probiotic intake, so it’s best to include as many fermented, probiotic-rich foods in your daily diet as you can.

We’ve rounded up the best fermented probiotic foods here, from yogurt to kimchi. Here, the best probiotic foods:

Best Overall: Green Valley Creamery Kefir Lowfat Plain

Green Valley Creamery Kefir Lowfat Plain

Kefir is a fermented milk drink made with a culture of yeasts and bacteria from kefir grains. It’s considered an even more concentrated source of probiotics than yogurt, putting it at the top of our list for best probiotic foods. 

Green Valley Lowfat Plain Kefir is packed with health benefits and nutrients. It’s organic, gluten-free, and lactose-free. So even though it’s a milk product, those who are lactose intolerant or following a low-FODMAP diet can enjoy this nutritious beverage. 

One cup of this kefir has 11 grams of high-quality protein and 30 percent of your daily calcium needs. It has 12 strains of live and active probiotic cultures, making it an excellent source of probiotics.

Best Budget: Stonyfield Organic Plain Nonfat Yogurt

 Stonyfield Organic Plain Nonfat Yogurt

Yogurt is probably the most commonly eaten probiotic food in the United States, and for a good reason. It’s a versatile, healthy, and affordable food to include in your daily diet. 

Stonyfield Organic Plain Nonfat Yogurt contains billions of probiotics per serving from live and active cultures. It’s certified USDA organic, Non-GMO certified, and 99 percent lactose-free. Each ¾ cup serving also provides 7 grams of protein and 20 percent of your daily calcium needs. 

Plain yogurt is an excellent base for yogurt bowls, creamy sauces, and dressings. It can also be blended into smoothies, so you can easily incorporate more probiotics into your lifestyle.

Best Yogurt: Siggi's Fat-Free Vanilla Yogurt

Siggi's Icelandic Style Skyr Non-Fat Yogurt, Vanilla

If you prefer flavored yogurt, try Siggi's Dairy. Siggi’s yogurt is actually skyr, a thick, creamy Icelandic-style yogurt that’s high in protein. It uses no artificial flavors, sweeteners, or stevia and contains less sugar than comparable Greek yogurt brands.

You can find various naturally flavored yogurts from Siggi’s, like vanilla, key lime, and blueberry. You can also buy plain Siggi's yogurt, which has no added sugars. All their varieties, which include drinkable yogurt, contain five strains of live and active cultures. 

If you follow a dairy-free diet, Siggi's also offers plant-based yogurt made with the same live and active cultures using a coconut blend. You can find plant-based flavors like mango and mixed berries.

Best Kefir: LifeWay Organic Low Fat Kefir

 Lifeway Organic Low Fat Kefir

Lifeway Plain Lowfat Kefir is an excellent source of probiotics and is a highly nutritious beverage overall. It’s widely available in most grocery stores and comes in a variety of tasty flavors in addition to plain. 

Lifeway Kefir is up to 99 percent lactose-free, non-GMO, Certified Gluten-Free, and contains 12 live and active probiotic cultures. A one-cup serving provides 11 grams of protein and 30 percent of your daily calcium needs.

Get creative with your probiotic foods to ensure you eat them daily. Try adding Lifeway Kefir to smoothies, use it as a milk replacement with cereal, or whisk it with savory ingredients to create creamy dressings.

Best Sauerkraut : Cleveland Kitchen Kraut Roasted Garlic Sauerkraut

Cleveland Kitchen Kraut Roasted Garlic Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is raw cabbage that has been fermented by lactic acid bacteria, which makes it a good source of probiotics. Sauerkraut has a tangy, sour flavor that can be eaten plain or added to various dishes. Sauerkraut is low in calories and a good source of fiber because it’s made from cabbage.

Cleveland Kitchen makes sauerkraut in various flavors, including Classic Caraway, Whiskey Dill, and Roasted Garlic. They ferment their sauerkraut with live and raw probiotics. The product is also vegan, gluten-free, and non-GMO certified.

Good to Know

When buying sauerkraut for probiotic benefits, be sure to purchase it from the refrigerated section. The shelf-stable sauerkraut in jars is likely pasteurized, and therefore the probiotics are no longer live and active.

Best Tempeh: Soy Boy Tempeh

Soy Boy Tempeh

Tempeh is a fermented soy product common in Japanese cuisine. It’s similar to tofu but has a nuttier taste and a firmer, chewier texture. Tempeh is a good source of plant-based protein and other nutrients like potassium, calcium, iron, and magnesium.

If you want to add tempeh to your diet to reap its probiotic benefits, try SoyBoy Tempeh. In addition to providing probiotics, SoyBoy Tempeh is also gluten-free, vegan, Certified USDA Organic, and a good source of fiber.

Add tempeh to pasta sauces, tacos, or stir-fries. Since it has a relatively neutral flavor, it tastes great marinated or tossed in your favorite sauces and dressings.

Best Kimchi: Mother In Law's Kimchi House Napa Cabbage

Mother In Law's Kimchi House Napa Cabbage

Kimchi is a traditional Korean side dish made of fermented vegetables, including napa cabbage and radish. It’s spicy and extremely flavorful because it’s seasoned with various plant-based ingredients like ginger, garlic, gochugaru, and spring onions. For an authentic, flavorful, probiotic-rich kimchi, try Mother in Law’s Kimchi.

Mother in Law’s Kimchi is made using traditional methods, which allow for deeper flavors and more balanced fermentation. They offer a variety of kimchi options, including a vegan version.

Kimchi is a delicious accompaniment to rice dishes, noodles, or sandwiches, as well as meat or fish.

Best Kombucha: Health-Ade Kombucha Tea, Ginger Lemon

Kombucha is a fermented beverage made from black or green tea. It’s effervescent and typically sweetened and flavored with various herbs and spices. Health-Ade is an excellent option if you want to add kombucha to your diet.

Health-Ade uses real fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices to add flavor to their kombucha with nothing artificial. This kombucha is vegan, Certified Gluten-Free, Certified USDA Organic, and non-GMO.

All kombucha has sugar, as it is necessary for the fermentation process, but Health-Ade uses just enough, so their kombucha is not overly sweetened. The ginger lemon flavor has only 8 grams of added sugar per bottle with nutritious ginger and lemon juices.

Final Verdict

If you have to try just one probiotic food from this list, go with Siggi’s yogurt (view at Walmart). It comes in a wide variety of flavors and is high in protein in addition to having live and active cultures. Yogurt is also easy to find in grocery stores and is the most versatile ingredient to use on this list, as you can add it to sweet and savory dishes for any meal or snack.

What to Look for in Probiotic Foods

Multiple Probiotic Strains:

When it comes to probiotics, the more variety, the better. Since our guts naturally contain a wide range of different microbes, it’s best to eat foods that also contain multiple probiotic strains. Some probiotic foods will list the names of the different probiotic cultures on the ingredient list, so take a peek when you are shopping.

Added Sugars or Artificial Sweeteners:

While there are many probiotic foods on the shelves these days, some products are laden with some not-so-good ingredients, like excess added sugar or artificial sweeteners. It’s best to eat probiotic foods as close to their natural state as possible to reap the most benefits since too much added sugar or artificial sweeteners in the diet may have negative health effects.

FAQs

What are the best probiotic-rich foods for IBS?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a chronic condition characterized by stomach pain, gas, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. Someone with IBS may experience all of these symptoms or only some of them. The cause of IBS is unknown, but evidence shows that certain foods may either trigger or alleviate symptoms.

Research shows that people with IBS may have less good bacteria and more harmful bacteria in their guts than healthy people, which may contribute to the cause of the condition. Some findings show people with IBS have symptom relief and reduced severity of the disease by taking probiotics in food or supplement form.

For someone with IBS, strains from particular probiotic families—Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus, and Saccharomyces—may be more helpful than other probiotic strains at alleviating symptoms. Look for these species on food labels when shopping for probiotic foods.

If you have IBS and find that high FODMAP foods exacerbate your symptoms, steer clear of any probiotic foods that contain high FODMAP ingredients, like cabbage in sauerkraut and kimchi and lactose in yogurt. Choose lactose-free fermented dairy products like kefir, tempeh, and kombucha instead.

What food has the most probiotics?

Yogurt and kefir are excellent sources of probiotics. They also have the added benefit of containing multiple strains of different types of probiotics, enhancing the potency of the foods. These foods are also widely available in most grocery stores and easy to add to various meals throughout your day.

What Experts Say

“The main benefit in consuming probiotic-rich foods over supplements is that you get to reap the benefits of both the live microorganisms and other nutrients found in the food. With dairy products like yogurt and kefir, for example, you get the satiating benefit of protein. With fermented vegetables like kimchi and sauerkraut, you get fiber, some of which is prebiotic, meaning it fuels the probiotics.” —Charlotte Martin, MS, RDN

Why Trust Verywell Fit?

As a Registered Dietitian, Alex Aldeborgh has experience counseling clients with a wide variety of health conditions for which probiotic foods are a beneficial addition to their diets. She keeps up with the latest research and news regarding probiotics in both food and supplement forms. She also regularly consumes many probiotic foods on this list and would feel comfortable recommending them to family, friends, and clients.

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Article Sources
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