Healthy Eating

The 5 Healthiest Probiotic-Rich Foods For Gut Health According to an RD

Plus, delicious ways to add them to your diet.

By: Lauren Manaker MS, RDN, LD, CLEC

Your gut health is one of the most important aspects of your health that you can focus on. Sure, keeping your gut health in check can help you have healthy bowel movements, experience less bloat, and struggle with less constipation. But your gut also houses 70% of your immune system. So, if your gut isn’t healthy, your immune health could suffer too. And, thanks to a phenomenon called the gut-brain connection, having good gut health can impact your mental health as well. 

The bottom line? Keeping your gut healthy is incredibly important if you are trying to support your overall health. So, how do you achieve optimal gut health? Things like eating more whole grains, limiting your alcohol intake, and managing stress are all important. There are also probiotic-rich foods, and adding these foods to your diet is often at the top of many gut health experts’ lists of how to support a healthy gut. 

RELATED: Kombucha & Gut Health: Here’s What You Need to Know 

What Are Probiotic-Rich Foods?

Probiotics are a hot topic in the wellness world and for good reason. But to understand what probiotic-rich foods are, we first need to take a step back and make sure to understand what probiotics are. 

Technically, probiotics are live microorganisms that are intended to have health benefits when consumed or applied to the body. Most commonly in the form of a bacteria, probiotics are found in a variety of foods, including fermented foods and those with live cultures added to them. 

So, when you are eating probiotic-rich foods, you are eating live bacteria or yeast. And by doing so, you are introducing your body to these live organisms that stimulate the immune system, support healthy bowel movements, and so much more. 

5 Healthy Probiotic-Rich Foods For Gut Health

Including fermented food in your dishes is a good rule of thumb if you are focused on your gut health. However, keep in mind that it’s also important to consume prebiotic fiber to act as fuel for the live bacteria. 

Here are five healthy probiotic-rich foods to consider adding to your diet. 

#1 Kimchi

Kimchi is a fermented dish typically made with cabbage, although it can be made with other vegetables too. The vegetables are mixed with spices and bacteria and allowed to ferment before it is enjoyed. The combo of veggies and bacteria is a powerhouse marriage of prebiotics and probiotics, allowing for a symbiotic relationship between the two. 

Try adding kimchi on top of a wholesome grain bowl, enjoy it with a stir-fry, or on top of a burger, or if you like the taste, eat it right off the fork!

#2 Yogurt

Probably the most popular probiotic-rich food, yogurt is made with live and active cultures and a dairy base. And as long as the label says that the yogurt you are choosing has live and active cultures, you can feel confident that including your selection will give your body a boost of probiotics. 

Pro Tip: While yogurt can be a delicious addition to many recipes, know that many probiotic strains can not survive beyond 100 degrees F. As such, if you are heating your dish beyond this temperature, you may not reap all of the benefits of eating this dish. 

#3 Sauerkraut

Yup, the goodness that you may put on your hot dog is loaded with live probiotics. This fermented cabbage condiment is easy to make and is one of the best foods for your gut health. Not only is this food a source of probiotics, but it is also a source of gut-healthy fiber to help keep things moving smoothly. 

Sauerkraut is a natural topping on eggs, a delicious condiment for sandwiches, and, if you are a true sauerkraut lover, this veggie can be eaten on its own with a fork!

#4 Kefir

Kefir is a fermented probiotic milk drink. It is made by adding kefir grains to cow’s or goat’s milk. Made by adding bacteria and yeast to a dairy substrate, this drink is one choice that may support gut health. Try adding it to your smoothies for a delicious probiotic boost!

#5 Tempeh 

Made from fermented soybeans and oftentimes molded into a square or rectangular shape, tempeh is a vegan-friendly protein source that contains probiotics. Tempeh can be added to many dishes, including stir-fries, sandwiches, and soups. And thanks to new innovation, tempeh is now available in a wide variety of flavors, allowing for even more exciting plant-forward gut health-friendly meals. 

Adding Probiotic-Rich Foods to Your Gut-Friendly Diet 

If you are focused on supporting your overall health and wellness, your gut health should be high on your priority list. And when you are focusing on your gut health, including probiotics in your diet should be one step that you commit to. Supporting a healthy gut microbiota, or the microorganism makeup of your gut can have a profound impact on many aspects of your health, including your mental health, immune health, and digestive health. 

Although your gut health is affected by a wide variety of factors, including probiotic-rich foods in your diet is a simple way to support your gut. So, whip up a kefir-based smoothie, swap out your sour cream for plain yogurt on taco night, and lean on some tempeh instead of beef when you make your next stir-fry. Your gut health will benefit from the small changes, and you will be happy to learn how delicious maintaining your gut health can be.