The trillions of tiny creatures living in our bodies have been making headlines lately—and for good reasons. These good bacteria—particularly those in our gut—may improve digestion, boost immunity and—according to some preliminary studies—they may even help us get leaner. Research is still emerging on just how important these mighty microbes might be for our health, but the early results are promising. There’s plenty you can do now to encourage their growth. The most effective way is by eating foods packed with probiotics—good bacteria that live in your gut and show up in fermented foods. Add these seven fermented foods to your diet for a healthy dose of probiotics.
—Lisa D’Agrosa, M.S., R.D.
Tempeh is made from naturally fermented soybeans. With a slightly nutty flavor, it’s a good source of probiotics—and, because it contains all the essential amino acids, it’s a complete source of vegetarian protein.
Recipe to Try: Grilled Tempeh Salad with Sesame Ginger Dressing
A fermented paste made from barley, rice or soybeans, miso adds a nice umami flavor to dishes. It’s bold, so a little goes a long way (which is good because it’s also high in sodium).
Recipe to Try: Broiled Salmon with Miso Glaze
Made from just cabbage and salt, this fermented food delivers a healthy dose of probiotics and fiber.
Recipe to Try: Apple Sauerkraut Cheddar Quesadillas
Yogurt labeled with the "Live & Active Cultures" seal guarantees 100 million probiotic cultures per gram (about 17 billion cultures in a 6-ounce cup) at manufacturing time. Even yogurts without this seal will usually contain some probiotics.
Recipe to Try: Tutti Frutti Muesli
A fermented milk drink—it tastes a bit like drinkable yogurt—kefir is full of calcium and probiotics.
Recipe to Try: Banana Spice Smoothie
Kombucha is a tangy, effervescent tea—typically black or green. The drink is often flavored with herbs or fruit. You can find it in many natural foods stores and some farmers’ markets. A tiny amount of alcohol is sometimes produced during fermentation—usually less than 0.5 percent alcohol by volume. However, some kombuchas have been found to contain up to 2 or 3 percent alcohol.
Recipe to Try: Clean Breeze Smoothie
Sauerkraut’s Korean cousin, this fermented cabbage is spicy. Look for it in the refrigerated section near other Asian ingredients or pickles and sauerkraut.
Recipe to Try: Korean Turkey Burgers with Kimchi