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Gut Health
20 Probiotic Foods for a Healthy and Happy Gut
Gut Health

20 Probiotic Foods for a Healthy and Happy Gut

Dr. Donika Vata
Written by Donika Vata, MD | Fact checked by Fact checked by Edna Skopljak, MD check
Last update: May 19, 2023
13 min

Find out which probiotic foods you should be eating to ensure that your gut remains healthy.

Probiotic foods

As a form of “good” bacteria, probiotics fight off the bad bacteria in your body that can cause stomach pains, gas, and bloating when you eat.

There are a number of supplements on the market that claim to support digestion, but did you know that eating a probiotic-rich diet is the easiest way to maintain a healthy gut? 

With a wide variety of delicious, healthy, and versatile probiotic foods available, you won’t have a hard time finding an option you can incorporate into every meal. Read on for some ideas to help you choose the best probiotic foods for your health.

List of probiotic-rich foods

#1 Yogurt

#2 Kefir

#3 Sauerkraut

#4 Tempeh

#5 Traditional buttermilk

#6 Kimchi

#7 Miso

#8 Kombucha

#9 Pickles

#10 Pickled beets

#11 Pickled onions

#12 Aged cheese

#13 Sourdough bread

#14 Sour cream

#15 Garlic

#16 Apple cider vinegar

#17 Kvass

#18 Olives

#19 Natto

#20 Spirulina

Top 20 Probiotic Foods for Your Optimal Health

In addition to being essential for digestion, probiotics offer a number of other benefits that can help support your overall health and well-being. Read on to discover the top probiotic-rich, healthy foods to include in your daily diet.

#1 Yogurt

Yogurt is one of the most universally popular prebiotic foods as the smooth, creamy texture makes it ideal for adding to sauces or simply eating alone as a tasty snack.

With the help of the probiotics bifidobacteria and lactic acid bacteria, eating yogurt improves gastrointestinal (GI) health and can relieve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Furthermore, yogurt contains high levels of calcium, a mineral that contributes to maintaining strong bones. It has also been shown to lower blood pressure, which reduces the risk of heart disease for those with hypertension or high blood pressure.

However, not all yogurt contains live probiotics, as the bacteria can sometimes be killed during processing. Be sure to check the label for an indication that your chosen yogurt contains live or active cultures, and ensure that it isn’t made with high amounts of added sugar.

#2 Kefir

Originating from the Turkish word “keyif,” meaning “feeling good after eating,” kefir is a fermented probiotic milk drink. It is produced when kefir grains, cultures of lactic acid bacteria and yeast, are added to goat or cow milk. 

Kefir is thought to be a better source of probiotic bacteria than yogurt. This is because it contains a range of microorganism strains that offer several benefits for your digestive health.

For instance, it helps to improve the body’s absorption of calcium, which ensures that bones remain strong and reduces the risk of developing osteoporosis as you age. 

The beverage also contains the probiotic Lactobacillus kefiri, which stops the growth of harmful bacteria such as E.coli and salmonella that can cause sickness, diarrhea, and stomach cramps.

#3 Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut, or fermented cabbage, is a dish that is not only popular in Eastern European countries but all over the world for its salty and sour taste. 

As well as being rich in probiotics for a healthy gut, fermented foods such as sauerkraut are rich in fiber, which is essential for maintaining regular bowel movements and keeping you fuller for longer. 

It also contains high levels of vitamin K that helps to form blood clots and contributes to bone strength in older adults.

Sauerkraut is known for its powerful antioxidant properties, which prevent cell damage, reduce the risk of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, cancer, and type 2 diabetes, and help to maintain good eye health.

Be sure to eat unpasteurized sauerkraut, as the pasteurization process kills the live bacteria cultures that have probiotic effects.

#4 Tempeh

Often enjoyed as a high-protein meat substitute, tempeh is made from fermented soybeans. 

The fermentation process reduces the high levels of phytic acid that are typically found in soybeans, which increases the amount of iron and zinc that your body is able to absorb.

These are both essential minerals that support the growth, development, and maintenance of your immune health.

Tempeh also contains high levels of vitamin B12, which aren’t found in unfermented soybeans. Those on a vegetarian or plant-based diet often suffer from the symptoms of B12 deficiency, including fatigue and muscle weakness.

This is because the vitamin is found primarily in animal foods such as meat, fish, dairy products, and eggs. Eating tempeh is, therefore, a good way for vegetarians or vegans to get plenty of B12 in their diet.

#5 Traditional buttermilk

Traditional buttermilk is produced as a by-product of the butter-making process. The liquid that is left over contains probiotics but should not be confused with cultured buttermilk, which does not have any probiotic benefits.

Along with being low in calories and fat, these fermented dairy drinks contain essential nutrients, such as riboflavin, vitamin B12, phosphorus, and calcium, that contribute to overall physical health. 

Buttermilk is made up of 28% calcium, with a 500ml serving fulfilling the recommended calcium intake per day. This mineral is essential for healthy bones and teeth, as well as ensuring that your blood clots properly.

#6 Kimchi

Kimchi is typically made from cabbage, garlic, ginger, scallion, and red chili pepper flakes and is served as a spicy Korean side dish.

The vegetable is rich in vitamins and minerals such as vitamin K, iron, and riboflavin, the latter of which is essential for lining the digestive tract, proper development of the skin and blood cells, and good brain function.

Kimchi also contains the bacteria Lactobacillus kimchii, which supports good digestive health and boosts immunity.

#7 Miso

The Japanese seasoning miso is traditionally made with a combination of fermented soybeans, salt, and koji, a type of fungus. However, it can also be produced by mixing soybeans into a paste with barley, rice, and rye before being used in miso soup.

Miso soup has been found to have several health benefits for women, including lowering the risk of breast cancer and stroke.

As a good source of fiber, consuming miso helps to normalize your bowel movements, reduce the risk of developing colorectal cancer, and control blood sugar levels. 

High-fiber foods also help to fill you up for longer, meaning that you’ll consume fewer calories throughout the day. This is ideal for those trying to lose weight fast.

#8 Kombucha

Drinking a black or green tea beverage such as kombucha, fermented with friendly bacteria and yeast, helps promote good gut health.

Due to its anti-inflammatory polyphenols, kombucha corrects bacterial imbalances within the gut that can trigger gastrointestinal issues such as gas and bloating. 

However, be mindful of the amount you drink, as carbonated beverages can worsen these problems.

The drink may also help to maintain healthy blood sugar levels and aid weight loss, particularly when made with metabolism-boosting green tea.

#9 Pickles

Also known as gherkins, pickles are left to ferment in salty water or brine. Most brines naturally contain good lactic acid bacteria, which contributes to a healthy digestive system.

Although they are a great low-calorie snack which makes them ideal for weight loss, they are also high in sodium. Consuming too much sodium too frequently can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.

#10 Pickled beets

Like other pickled foods, pickled beets are a great source of the probiotic Lactobacillus plantarum. This probiotic has been shown to attack leukemia cells, so it may help reduce your risk of cancer.

They also contain vitamins and minerals such as potassium, calcium, and iron, which are important for preventing anemia and protecting bone strength. However, the amount of these micronutrients in the vegetable depends on how the beets are processed.

One of the main benefits of pickled beets is provided by flavonoids, powerful antioxidants that help reduce inflammation and boost your immune health.

#11 Pickled onions

Traditional pickled onions are made by soaking onions in vinegar and sugar, resulting in a mild, sweet, yet vinegary flavor. If you’re looking for a probiotic-rich version, try making lacto-fermented pickled onions in a simple salt and water solution instead.

This ensures that they offer a good level of naturally-occurring bacteria, which can help to maintain a healthy gut. Pickled onions also contain significant amounts of vitamin B9. 

Commonly known as folate, this vitamin is essential for forming red blood cells that carry oxygen to where it is needed in the body. Low levels of folate can lead to anemia, a deficiency that causes fatigue and muscle weakness.

#12 Aged cheese

Unlike other types of fermented cheese, aged cheeses contain probiotics as good bacteria are able to survive the aging process. So, when choosing a cheese, look for types that contain “live” or “active” cultures, including Swiss, Edam, Gruyere, and Gouda.

Although cheese is well-known for its high protein and calcium content, it tends to be high in calories, sodium, and saturated fat. Consuming too much saturated fat can raise levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol, which increases your risk of heart disease and stroke.

So try to eat cheese in moderation and instead include lower-fat options in your diet, such as yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese, and light cream cheese.

#13 Sourdough bread

Sourdough begins as a starter, a mixture of flour and water where a range of probiotic yeasts and bacteria develop. This fermentation process releases more fiber than a standard bread loaf, which is an essential nutrient for supporting a healthy gut.

The bread also has a lower gluten content thanks to the fermentation that it undergoes, making it an ideal choice for those with gluten sensitivity.

#14 Sour cream

Sour cream is high in calories and fat, meaning that it may not be the best option for those trying to lose weight. 

However, consuming high-fat foods in moderation is essential for the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Having a deficiency in any of these vitamins can increase your risk of developing diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and various immune disorders.

Some commercially-produced varieties of sour cream are pasteurized, which kills off strains of live bacteria that are used during the fermentation process.

Look out for brands that add these microorganisms back into their product after the pasteurization process to ensure that you’re able to experience the benefits of probiotics.

#15 Fermented garlic

Also known as black garlic, fermented garlic has a chewy, jelly-like texture that exhibits great probiotic properties. 

The fermentation process increases the nutrient content, including the amount of protein, fat, and carbohydrates within garlic, as well as making them easier for the body to absorb.

Furthermore, garlic may improve the body’s immune response, with a 12-week study finding that it reduced the occurrence of the common cold by 63% when compared to a placebo.

#16 Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) has several health benefits, including lowering cholesterol, improving insulin sensitivity for those with diabetes, and contributing to weight loss.

If you want to use ACV for its probiotic benefits, try to choose bottles that have a cloudy appearance, with strands floating around at the bottom. 

This type of ACV contains a buildup of desirable nutrients called the mother, which consists of B vitamins and anti-inflammatory polyphenols for optimal gut health.

#17 Kvass

Kvass is a fermented drink that is popular in Eastern Europe. Traditionally made with rye or barley, kvass is now mainly made using probiotic fruits and root vegetables such as beets or carrots.

The beet beverage offers a savory, salty, and tangy flavor and has been shown to support heart health by converting nitrates to nitric acid

This encourages blood vessels to dilate, which improves circulation and oxygenation throughout the body. Drinking kvass can therefore help to boost brain function too.

Beets also provide kvass with phytonutrients called betalains and betaine, which help eliminate oxidative stress and reduce inflammation in the liver. 

#18 Olives

Fermented by the Lactobacilli bacteria, green, brine-cured olives are one of the most probiotic-rich foods.

They contain a range of phytonutrients and healthy, monounsaturated fats that fight oxidative stress and reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and certain cancers.

However, try to avoid olives that contain food additives such as sodium benzoate, which has been shown to counteract many of the probiotic benefits of this superfood. 

#19 Natto

Like tempeh, natto is a fermented soybean product that is most often consumed for breakfast in Japan. 

It contains the bacterium Bacillus subtilis, a probiotic typically found in soil and water that stands out for its use in reducing the symptoms of gastrointestinal issues, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Natto also contains high levels of vitamin K2, which, when consumed regularly, contributes to a higher bone mineral density in men. It may also help prevent osteoporosis in women.

#20 Spirulina

Derived from algae, spirulina is a superfood of the sea that typically comes in powder and tablet form. Stir it into a glass of water or add it to a green smoothie to enhance your intake of essential nutrients and probiotics.

Spirulina increases the presence of healthy Lactobacillus bacteria in the intestine, which boosts the production of vitamin B6. Having low B6 levels can cause you to feel fatigued, as this vitamin helps the body use and store energy from the food you eat.

As well as giving spirulina its unique blue-green color, the antioxidant phycocyanin fights free radicals that damage the body and may cause inflammation, cancer, and autoimmune diseases.

What Are Probiotics?

Probiotics are a mixture of live microorganisms, including bacteria and yeast, that provide several health benefits for the body. For instance, they are known to improve digestive health, reduce bloating, and promote good skin.

As a form of “good” bacteria, probiotics help to fight “bad” bacteria in the body that cause inflammation, which can lead to chronic diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and Alzheimer’s disease

This process balances the bacteria in the gut microbiome and ensures that your digestive tract, immune system, and heart are able to continue functioning healthily. 

One popular way to consume them is through probiotic supplements and drinks, but they can also be found naturally in a range of foods.

What Is a Natural Probiotic?

Although probiotics can be found in supplements, natural probiotics are those that occur in food.

Natural probiotics are most often found in fermented foods when carbohydrates are broken down and begin to interact with bacteria during the fermentation process. 

The food will not only be preserved once this process is complete, meaning that it will last much longer, but it will also be filled with probiotics. 

Some fermented foods go through a process to remove the beneficial bacteria, such as beer or wine, but most can be classified as probiotic foods.

How to Get Probiotics Naturally

To ensure that you are getting a good range of probiotics, vitamins, and minerals naturally, you should include a wide variety of probiotic-rich foods in your diet on a daily basis.

Containing 90–50 billion colony-forming units (CFUs) of bacteria per serving, yogurt is one of the most popular sources of natural probiotics. Choose brands that advertise “live and active cultures” on the label to ensure that you’re getting plenty of probiotics. 

Try eating probiotic yogurt and fruit for breakfast or a snack, substituting it for mayonnaise, adding it to a sauce, or including it in a baking recipe.

You should also incorporate other fermented foods into your daily diet to increase your natural probiotic consumption. With such a wide range of choices, you’re sure to find an option that you like, including kefir, kombucha, pickles, sauerkraut, tempeh, and many more.

What’s the Difference Between Probiotic and Prebiotic Foods?

While probiotics contain good bacteria, or normal microflora, that help you maintain a healthy gut, prebiotics act as food for these bacteria. Prebiotics are mostly found in high-fiber foods and are eaten by the good bacteria in your gut because your body cannot digest them.

Having a good balance of both probiotics and prebiotics in your diet ensures that your gut flora, or microbiota, remains healthy while also aiding digestion.

Although you can get prebiotics in supplement form, like probiotics, they also occur naturally in certain legumes, vegetables, and fruits. This includes oatmeal, bananas, berries, asparagus, onions, garlic, leeks, and Jerusalem artichokes.


Does all yogurt have probiotics?

All types of yogurt contain live and active cultures that ferment milk to produce yogurt. However, not all have probiotics that help to support a healthy gut.

Do pickles have probiotics?

Yes, pickles are a type of fermented food that are packed with healthy bacteria for your gut.

What is a live probiotic?

Live probiotics are friendly microorganisms such as yeast and bacteria that fight “bad” bacteria and help maintain a healthy gut microbiome.

A Word From an MD

Incorporating a variety of probiotic foods into your diet is an easy and inexpensive way to maintain good gut health. Start by making a few simple substitutions, such as swapping soda for kombucha or kvass, and tempeh for chicken.

If you’re struggling to get enough of these foods into your diet, you could try taking a probiotic supplement. They come in pill or capsule form and should be taken regularly, consistently, and on an empty stomach for best results.

As with any supplement, check with your doctor first to make sure it is safe for you to take probiotics. Probiotic supplements should not be used by people with weakened immune systems and may not be suitable for those who are pregnant or breastfeeding.


Probiotic foods contain large amounts of good bacteria that help to maintain your gut health. There is a wide range of foods to choose from that also provide several other health benefits, from maintaining healthy bones to reducing the risk of cancer.

Dr. Donika Vata
Written by
Dr. Donika Vata is a highly accomplished MD whose extensive experience in the healthcare industry spans over 5 years, making her a distinguished Medical Writer and Researcher for the esteemed Health Reporter. Notably, she also holds the role of a General Practice Doctor and has rendered her exceptional patient care services in various clinics worldwide.
The article was checked by Edna Skopljak, MD
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