9 Ways to Eat More Probiotics Every Day
Probiotics — those good-for-you live bacteria and yeasts — are everywhere in the news these days. And for good reason: Science shows they’re a great way to support a healthy gut and may help treat some digestive problems, such as constipation and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). They may even improve immune function. And a pilot study accepted for publication in May 2017 by the journal Gastroenterology found that probiotics may reduce depression in people with IBS.
So which foods are best if you want to load up on good bacteria? Here are nine RD-approved tips.
1. Start Your Day With a Parfait
Simply top a bowl of yogurt with your favorite granola (the lower in sugar the better) and some antioxidant-rich berries, says Stefani Pappas, RD, a clinical dietitian at St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn, New York. Yogurt is cultured or fermented milk that has been soured and thickened by adding live active cultures that promote the growth of good bacteria in the gut.
For convenience, make it the night before so it’s ready and waiting for you in the morning, she adds. “I start with my favorite Greek yogurt, add two tablespoons of organic granola, and then top that with frozen organic berries. Place that in the fridge and, when you wake up, the berries will be perfectly defrosted.” If you like your granola crunchy, store it in a separate container and add it just before serving.
2. Make Yogurt a Kitchen Staple
Plain yogurt with live active cultures can be transformed from a breakfast food into a key ingredient in salad dressings, dips, and cold sauces, says Kit Broihier, RD, a nutrition consultant in Portland, Maine.
Just remember that any recipe that requires heating the yogurt in any way is going to kill off its good bacteria. So stick to no-cook recipes for the most gut benefits, Broihier says.
3. Broaden Your Sauerkraut Savvy
Sauerkraut isn’t just for that ballpark hot dog. Try raw krauts made with the traditional cabbage, or other veggies, too, to give any meal a whole lot more flavor. Danielle Gill, RD, a nutrition supervisor at NYC Department for the Aging, says she prefers getting probiotics from her diet, not supplements. “Fermented daikon radishes, turnips, cucumbers, okra, and string beans make a great condiment, snack, or zesty add-on to any salad,” she says.
4. Add Kefir to Your Smoothie
“Kefir, a tart and tangy cultured milk drink, is packed with various strains of beneficial probiotics and live cultures,” Pappas says. She drinks four ounces of it each morning with breakfast, but if it tastes too tart alone, she recommends adding it to a smoothie for a nutritious (and good-bacteria) boost.
5. Take a Kombucha Break
Kombucha is a probiotic-rich fermented drink made with tea, sugar, bacteria, and yeast — making it a great vegan alternative to other probiotic-rich foods, such as kefir or yogurt, Pappas says. Or swap the refreshing probiotic drink for your afternoon coffee or happy hour cocktail, she adds.
6. Experiment With Kimchi
According to a study published in January 2014 in the Journal of Medicinal Food, this super-spicy Korean condiment is packed with healthy bacteria called lactobacilli, giving it a probiotic boost. “The reddish fermented cabbage is a tasty topper for your tacos or an accent for sandwiches and burgers,” suggests Sherry Coleman Collins, RDN, a nutrition consultant in private practice in Atlanta.
7. Try Tempeh
Seek out recipes that incorporate tempeh — a preparation of probiotic-rich fermented soybeans. Tempeh is also a great source of protein, fiber, antioxidants, and amino acids. Its hearty texture makes it a great meat-alternative (like in this Smothered Tempeh Sandwich with red-wine-braised mushrooms).
8. Put Miso Soup on Your Menu
Miso soup is easy to make with hot water and miso paste and adds a probiotic punch. “Miso is fermented soy that contains healthy bacteria,” says Gabriella Vetere, RDN, a personal health coach in San Jose, California, and a performance dietitian at Exos, a tech company that focuses on health and human performance.
Just remember that high temperatures can kill probiotics (eliminating their health boost). Add the miso paste just before serving and avoid super-hot temperatures to preserve as many beneficial microorganisms as possible.
9. Don’t Forget Prebiotic-Rich Foods
Prebiotics are nondigestible components found in some fruits, veggies, and other foods that promote the growth of good-for-you bacteria in the gut. Raw apples, bananas, asparagus, beans, artichokes, garlic, onions, and leeks as well as whole-wheat foods and soybeans are all good sources, Vetere says.