Probiotic Foods – Benefits, Side Effects, and Importance

Probiotics are beneficial live bacteria that deliver a variety of powerful health benefits for the brain and body. The benefits of consuming probiotic foods include reducing depression, boosting heart health and enhancing digestive health. They help achieve a healthy balance in the gut. Gut flora imbalance in the GI tract could lead to symptoms usually associated with constipation, diarrhea, gastroenteritis, and IBS.

How do probiotics help?

According to studies, probiotics can reduce lactose intolerance. They could also assist with controlling tummy trouble such as diarrhea and gas. The majority of probiotics come under two groups:


This probiotic is very common. You’ll see it in a number of fermented foods including yogurt. Various strains can assist with diarrhea. They may also benefit people who are unable to digest the sugar in milk called lactose.


This is seen in certain dairy products. It is possibly useful in alleviating the symptoms of IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) as well as of some other conditions.

Saccharomyces boulardii

It is a type of yeast present in probiotics. It could help battle certain digestive problems including diarrhea.

List of Probiotic Foods and Drinks to Kickstart your Gut Health

Here is a selection of food suggestions to incorporate in your diet for a healthy gut.


It is one of the most recognizable sources to get your probiotics from. Yogurt is the product gained from mixing Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus into pasteurized milk. The bacteria produce lactic acid that thickens up the milk.

Try Greek yogurt but make sure it is labeled “live active cultures.” Some Greek yogurts go through heat treatment following fermentation. This would destroy the majority of beneficial active cultures. In addition, do not take yogurts with added sugars. They help bad bacteria more than the good ones.

Traditional Buttermilk

Buttermilk is a term used to describe a variety of fermented dairy drinks. There are two key kinds, namely traditional and cultured.

Traditional buttermilk is chiefly had in India, Pakistan, and Nepal. It is the leftover liquid following the manufacture of butter. It is this type of buttermilk that has probiotics.

Cultured buttermilk is what is typically seen in American supermarkets. Sadly, buying this will not give you any probiotic advantages.

Buttermilk is a low-calorie drink and it contains such vitamins and minerals as riboflavin, Vitamin B12, calcium and phosphorous.


Saukerkraut is cabbage that has been Lacto-fermented. It has within it natural compounds that have powerful waistline-slimming and cancer-battling properties.

As per a study that came out in the World Journal of Microbiology and Biotechnology, mice that were given a saukerkraut extract rich in probiotics had decreased cholesterol levels.

Go for the unpasteurized variety. The pasteurizing process kills good, active bacteria and this is what is seen in a lot of supermarket brands.

Saukerkraut is linked with another amazing benefit. Research from the College of William and Mary uncovered that a daily saukerkraut serving assisted with bringing down social anxiety. The researchers are of the view that this is because most of our body’s serotonin (a feel-good hormone) is produced in our guts and the good bacteria encouraged
gut-production of serotonin.


This is a bubbly foods-based fermented drink created from green or black tea. It is a symbiotic culture of yeasts and bacteria, termed a “SCOBY.”

To get the probiotic benefits of Kombucha, you need to buy a refrigerated, low-sugar product. Stay away from pasteurized Kombucha when it comes to getting probiotics. Saccharomyces is the name of a probiotic strain present in kombucha.

In addition to its probiotic benefits, kombucha may increase energy levels, the functioning of the immune system and detoxification.

Miso soup

A well-liked Japanese breakfast food, the fermented soybean paste Miso is rich in probiotics. Miso is prepared by fermenting soybeans with koji and salt. Koji is a fungus known as Aspergillus oryzae.

Miso is useful to get the digestive system moving. In addition, it has all 9 of the essential amino acids and boosts the immune system. It also decreases the probability of developing multiple cancers.

Miso is also utilized to create a low-calorie, salty soup that is full of protective antioxidants, and B vitamins.


Legends say that shepherds based in the Caucasus Mountains noticed a tendency of the milk they carried to ferment and become a bubbly beverage. Kefir is creamy, tangy and thick just as yogurt is. In addition to probiotic bacteria strains, Kefir contains a few useful types of yeast. It is another of the well-known probiotic foods.

Research shows that kefir can offset the stomach-irritating effects of milk’s lactose. Researchers from Ohio State University discovered that consuming this fermented drink could decrease lactose-associated gas and bloating by 70 percent. The bacteria in kefir can colonize the intestinal tract so they are more likely to deliver healing to the gut. Moreover, Kefir is one of the various foods that are by nature, rich in helpful digestive enzymes.

Sourdough bread

The famous sourdough bread from San Francisco packs a digestion-boosting probiotic.

Acidophilus Milk

This milk is fermented with bacteria. When shopping just look out for milk labeled ‘sweet acidophilus milk.’

Cottage Cheese

As mentioned already about yogurt, some cottage cheeses would have active, live cultures and not all. So read those labels.

Usually, dairy products do have lots of muscle-building, slow-digesting protein and may increase probiotic absorption. However, make cottage cheese only a last resort. A number of cottage cheeses contain a lot of sodium and this can trigger bloating. In addition, if you eat too much you could be at risk of developing high blood pressure.

Soft-aged cheeses are a better bet. These include mozzarella, gouda, swiss, parmesan, gruyere and cheddar. They are usually the only kind of cheese with the probiotic bacteria intact. Go with those prepared from only unpasteurized, raw milk.

All probiotics cannot make it through the stomach and intestines. The good news is that according to research, the strains present in fermented soft cheeses such as Gouda are tough enough to get through.

Sour Pickles

When trying to select from among sour pickles, go with those that were naturally fermented. Steer clear of those in which vinegar was involved in the pickling process. A solution made of sea salt and water is food for the development of good bacteria. Thus, sour pickles could assist with your digestive process. However, to be on the safe side, why not make your own fermented pickles at home with salt, a starter, and water.


This Indonesian patty has as its base, fermented soybeans. It is a vegan replacement for bacon and is also more beneficial for the gut. Its flavor is nutty, smoky and perhaps, resembles that of a mushroom. The practically neutral flavor means you can apply various of your favorite seasonings on it.

Tempeh produces a kind of natural antibiotic that battles certain bacteria.

Bifidobacterium bifidum, a probiotic microorganism is present in abundance in soy tempeh. The bacterium is especially helpful for people with diarrhea, constipation and abdominal pain. It may also increase gastrointestinal tract immunity.

Another strain present in tempeh is Bacillus subtilis. Though there is less calcium in tempeh when compared to milk, it is highly bioavailable. This means tempeh’s calcium is easily absorbed. Certain bacteria involved in the production of tempeh produce Vitamin B12.

Consider marinated tempeh as a replacement for meat in your meals. Perhaps, you never thought before those probiotic foods could be meaty too. A 3-ounce serving of the patty is not just good for your gut but also gives you 8 percent of your required daily calcium intake and 16 grams of protein.


This Asian veggie dish is made out of fermented foods. It has cabbage, scallions and radish in it with a distinctive red color. The color results from a seasoned paste of salted shrimp, kelp powder or red pepper. Bacterial strains present in kimchi are good for both your gut and weight.

Researchers at a Korean University fed lab rats a high-fat diet to induce obesity in them. After doing so, they gave one group of the rats Lactobacillus brevis which is the culture strain present in Kimchi. They found that the probiotic suppressed weight gain caused by the diet by 28 percent. Do consider adding Kimchi to your list of probiotic foods.


Natto is a great food for women. This Japanese dish created from probiotic fermented soybean stands out in being the richest source of dietary Vitamin K2. The vitamin is essential for bone and cardiovascular health and also for encouraging skin elasticity to keep wrinkles away. Studies have suggested that natto could assist in preventing osteoporosis in females.

Natto is also rich in gut-healing probiotics. It has a bacterial strain known as Bacillus subtilis. Natto is usually blended with rice and served at breakfast.

The combination of fermented foods and a healthy gut can prevent inflammation. According to researchers, inflammation could affect skin health causing such problems as acne, psoriasis, and eczema.

Beet Kvass

Beet Kvass originated in Russia. Traditionally, it is prepared in a similar fashion to a yeast beer. Beet Kvass utilizes beets as the starch source. Whey is added to make the process of
Lacto-fermentation faster.

The more time the beets are allowed to ferment, the more mature the flavor. Beets are rich in dietary fiber and potassium. So, fermenting will increase its beneficial digestive properties.

Green Bananas

Mildly green bananas are a good source of probiotics, especially of resistant starch. They also have a good quantity of both insoluble and soluble fiber, minerals and vitamins. So, the good gut bacteria are fed well and your bones and heart are protected too. If the taste of these bananas doesn’t appeal to you, fry or boil them.


You can also get probiotics from supplements whether as tablets or capsules, in liquid or powder form. Easy as they are to use, they don’t offer the kind of nutrition you get from food. If you do want to use them instead of or along with probiotic foods, get your doctor’s opinion first.

Probiotic drinks

These are usually dairy-based beverages that have a consistency resembling milk. Certain manufacturers of these drinks refer to them as drinkable yogurts. Probiotic drinks are available in a variety of flavors and usually stocked in the dairy aisle of local groceries. One such popular drink is Yakult which its website claims have 8 billion live cultures. However, for those with lactose intolerance, non-dairy drinks are preferable and available too.

Green Olives

Olives that have been brined in saltwater go through a process of natural fermentation. Further, the acids released from lactic acid bacteria and naturally available on the olive give the fruits their unique flavor. Lactobacillus pentosus and Lactobacillus plantarum have been isolated in the fruit. In addition, there is great potential in L.plantarum to give you a flat stomach.

According to a study that came out in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, L. plantarum can balance gut bugs and reduce bloating. This is particularly the case in people suffering from IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). Unfortunately, the majority of olives purchased from the store have undergone lye treatment. Lye is not a favorable treatment for delicate probiotics.


Bacteria love garlic because it is chock full of probiotics. It is best had raw but cooked garlic is also fine. As per a study that appeared in ‘Food Science and Human Wellness,’ consuming garlic is effective in keeping multiple gastrointestinal illnesses at bay.

What is Prebiotics?

Prebiotics – Prebiotics are compounds present in foods that trigger the activity or growth of beneficial fungi and bacteria. Further, in the gastrointestinal tract, prebiotics feeds the live probiotic bacteria in the gut. Some foods that have prebiotics in them include asparagus, bananas, red wine, maple syrup, Jerusalem artichokes, legumes, oatmeal, and honey. You can either have prebiotic foods alone or in combination with probiotic foods.

Probiotics Side Effects

It is possible to experience a few side effects when you consume probiotic foods. These include nausea or gas. To minimize such side effects, it is advisable to introduce one or two different foods to the diet each week.

If you are pregnant, have a weak immune system or consume a special diet for any pre-existing health complaint, do ask your doctor before taking probiotics. These foods may cause allergic reactions in some people. If they do, stop taking them and consult your doctor. For advice on how to safely incorporate probiotics into your diet, do get in touch with a nutritionist.

Whether you choose to get take probiotic foods, drinks or supplements, probiotics are good for you.

Shusree Mukherjee
Shusree Mukherjee
With 10+ years of experience in SEO content writing, Shusree believes content can move mountains while you deep dive into a pool of new experiences through learning and unlearning. Shusree loves to write on travel, health, beauty, celebrity, food, and all that jazz.

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