6 Probiotic-Rich Foods That'll Boost Your Gut Health

There's more than just yogurt.

6 probiotic-rich foods that'll boost your gut health.
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There’s no doubt probiotics are one of the most popular gut-healing superstars out there. If probiotic supplements are always at the top of your grocery list, you’re probably also wondering what foods have probiotics, which can help you further reap the healthy bacteria’s many benefits.

“Probiotics are live bacteria that can produce health benefits to us,” says Dragana Skokovic-Sunjic, clinical pharmacist, NCMP, and author of Clinical Guide to Probiotic Supplements. Essentially, your body has both “good” and “bad” bacteria, which make up your gut microbiome (a community of bacteria) and affect various aspects of your overall health. When you incorporate “good” bacteria — aka probiotics — into your diet or supplement regimen, you’ll experience wellness benefits — for starters, it helps get rid of “bad” bacteria that makes you more vulnerable to getting sick.

The most commonly known benefit of probiotics is improved gut health and digestion. In doing so, probiotics restore balance to the gut by providing good bacteria for intestinal microbes. Skokovic-Sunjic says probiotics can also help in other ways, including improving vaginal health — mainly by regulating your vagina’s pH levels and preventing yeast infections. She notes they can also help prevent migraines when taken regularly, which is because the bacteria that lives in the gut is connected to the function of your other organs, including brain function — hence why emerging studies show the preventative effects probiotics can have on migraines. Research has also found probiotics to strengthen the immune system and minimizing the risk of the common cold and flu.

Before you stock up on all the probiotic-rich foods you can get your hands on, it’s important to note that there’s actually little known research on the exact amount of probiotics contained in any given food, says Align Healthy Gut Team Up Representative and registered dietitian nutritionist Vanessa Rissetto, RD. That’s why she also recommends including a supplement in your diet to ensure you know the exact amount you’re consuming (she says 30 billion CFUs, or colony-forming units, is a standard amount to take each day).

But, regardless of the unknowns around probiotic measurements in food, it’s still helpful for your overall health to include friendly bacteria in your diet. Registered dietitian nutritionist Marisa Moore recommends looking for diversity: “Try different types of foods with probiotics, because diversity in what you eat is always good,” she tells Bustle.

From fermented soy products to (you guessed it) yogurt, these are the expert-recommended probiotic-rich foods to eat for a boost in your gut health.


Yogurt is one of the most popular probiotic-rich foods that offers gut benefits through its live active cultures, and you can turn to any type — from Greek to regular yogurt, all yogurts contain some probiotics.

That said, Skokovic-Sunjic says some store-bought yogurt can have little bacteria left in it after going through pasteurization. “The yogurt is exposed to heat to stop fermentation, and the heat effectively kills most of the bacteria — though not always all of it,” she tells Bustle. If they go through the heating process, several food manufacturers will add probiotics to increase the health value of the product, Rissetto says. For your best bet, look to the product label to make sure what you’re buying contains live active cultures.


Moore points to kefir as another probiotic-rich food. As a fermented milk drink, kefir is basically a “drinkable yogurt,” she tells Bustle. Her tip? It’s best used in smoothies, and can be used in soups for a richer flavor profile.


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Skokovic-Sunjic says kombucha, a fermented black or green tea, is a great source of different blends of bacteria, fungi, and enzymes. It also happens to taste really good and come in unique flavors (like mango or turmeric). But, like most pasteurized probiotic sources, the bacteria can get killed in the process leaving you without “much of any of the live microorganisms,” says Skokovic-Sunjic. Her remedy to this? Make your own kombucha at home to retain the most gut-friendly bacteria. She also recommends looking for raw kombucha that’s not pasteurized.

Soft Cheeses

Good news for charcuterie lovers: Certain cheeses serve as a solid dose of probiotics. Skokovic-Sunjic says to look for “younger cheeses,” which have more live bacteria that’ll benefit your gut. That includes cheeses like gouda, mozzarella, and cottage cheese — mainly softer options. This is because, according to Rissetto, bacteria in older cheeses won’t survive the aging process. Also look to raw, unpasteurized cheese.

Fermented Vegetables

Fermented veggies have high probiotic value.

Fermented veggies like kimchi and sauerkraut are rich sources of probiotics. The magic is all in the fermentation process. “Cabbage on its own isn't going to be a probiotic, but once it's fermented, then that bacteria grows, and it becomes the good bacteria that's good for your gut,” says Rissetto.

According to Moore, these veggies can give you some of that fermented lactic acid bacteria that you would get from the fermentation process. Studies show this strain of bacteria helps with digestion and cholesterol. As is the case with other probiotic-rich foods, look for less pasteurized options for the most live bacteria.

Fermented Soy Products

You can also turn to tempeh and miso, as both are fermented foods. Tempeh — a fermented soybean curd — is used a lot like tofu, says Moore, while miso — fermented soybean paste — is often used as a soup base or in seasonings since it has a strong flavor. Research backs the gut health perks of both tempeh (which can improve digestion) and miso (which also boosts your immune system).

Studies referenced:

Bellikci-Koyu E, et al (2019), Effects of Regular Kefir Consumption on Gut Microbiota in Patients with Metabolic Syndrome: A Parallel-Group, Randomized, Controlled Study, MDPI, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6769690/

Borges S, Silva J, Teixeira P. The role of lactobacilli and probiotics in maintaining vaginal health. Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2014 Mar, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24170161/

Fenster, K., Freeburg, B., Hollard, C., Wong, C., Rønhave Laursen, R., & Ouwehand, A. C. (2019). The Production and Delivery of Probiotics: A Review of a Practical Approach. https://doi.org/10.3390/microorganisms7030083

Ganesan B., et al, (2014). Probiotic bacteria survive in Cheddar cheese and modify populations of other lactic acid bacteria. Journal of Applied Microbiology. https://sfamjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/jam.12482

Hemarajata, P., & Versalovic, J. (2013). Effects of probiotics on gut microbiota: mechanisms of intestinal immunomodulation and neuromodulation. Therapeutic advances in gastroenterology, https://doi.org/10.1177/1756283X12459294

Kapp J., Sumner W. (2019), Kombucha: a systematic review of the empirical evidence of human health benefit. Annals of Epidemiology. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1047279718307385

Kuligowski M, Jasińska-Kuligowska I, Nowak J. (2013) Evaluation of bean and soy tempeh influence on intestinal bacteria and estimation of antibacterial properties of bean tempeh. Pol J Microbiol. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24053022/

Naghibi, M. M., Day, R., Stone, S., & Harper, A. (2019). Probiotics for the Prophylaxis of Migraine: A Systematic Review of Randomized Placebo Controlled Trials. Journal of clinical medicine, https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm8091441

Rezac, S., Kok, C. R., Heermann, M., & Hutkins, R. (2018). Fermented Foods as a Dietary Source of Live Organisms. Frontiers in microbiology, https://doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2018.01785

Terpou, A., Papadaki, A., Lappa, I. K., Kachrimanidou, V., Bosnea, L. A., & Kopsahelis, N. (2019). Probiotics in Food Systems: Significance and Emerging Strategies Towards Improved Viability and Delivery of Enhanced Beneficial Value. Nutrients, https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11071591

Watanabe, H. (2013). Beneficial Biological Effects of Miso with Reference to Radiation Injury, Cancer and Hypertension. Journal of Toxicologic Pathology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3695331/

Yan, F., & Polk, D. B. (2011). Probiotics and immune health. Current opinion in gastroenterology, https://doi.org/10.1097/MOG.0b013e32834baa4d


Dragana Skokovic-Sunjic, Clinical Pharmacist, N.C.M.P., and author of Clinical Guide to Probiotic Supplements

Marisa Moore, M.B.A., R.D.N., L.D., registered dietician nutritionist

Vanessa Rissetto, R.D., C.D., registered dietician nutritionist