Probiotics are “good” bacteria that help the body to digest food and fight off harmful bacteria in the digestive system. There’s a direct link between the stomach and the central nervous system (why we feel “butterflies in the tummy” when we’re nervous, for example), so keeping your gut happy can go a long way toward a happy brain and body. It’s true what they say - the way to the heart (and mind) is through the stomach!
Fortunately, naturally occurring probiotics can be found in a variety of tasty, readily available foods. These seven gut-friendly ingredients and quick, easy recipes make it a treat to treat your belly right.
It’s a must-have on hot dogs and authentic Reuben sandwiches, but did you know sauerkraut, aka fermented cabbage, is also good for digestive health? In addition to boasting probiotics, sauerkraut is a good source of fiber, which supports a healthy colon and helps to regulate blood sugar. Keep cozy from the inside out on chilly nights with this stick-to-your-ribs skillet starring tangy kraut, apples, and smoky kielbasa.
Yogurt may be the best-known source of ready-to-eat probiotics in the grocery store. Brimming with calcium and protein, creamy plain yogurt is also a versatile ingredient in both sweet and savory dishes. Try it as a swap for sour cream in baked goods or combine with garlic and lemon juice for a flavorful chicken marinade. Yogurt is also the secret weapon in this lighter, leaner take on creamed spinach with steak that packs all the flavor and creaminess of the original.
In its native Korea, the fermented cabbage known as kimchi is eaten both as a condiment and a tangy, stand-alone snack. Its distinctive pickled, chili-garlic flavor adds crunchy zing to everything from noodles to sandwiches to fried chicken. That’s good news for both taste buds and the stomach, as kimchi is full of vitamins, minerals, and loads of probiotics. Fast track your way to a happy belly and big, plant-powered flavor with this kimchi-studded fried rice and fried eggs ready in just 15 minutes.
If you like creamy smoothies and yogurt, kefir might just be your new favorite beverage. Made from fermented milk, kefir is a rich source of vitamins, calcium, and protein. The dairy drink’s real claim to fame, however, is its rich and diverse supply of probiotics. With more than 60 different strains of good bacteria, kefir is a no-brainer when it comes to supporting digestive health. Enjoy a treat that’s doubly good for your belly with this creamy, gluten-free panna cotta made with kefir and fiber-rich berries.
Like other fermented foods, pickled beets are a rich source of probiotics. They’re also full of fiber and potassium, and they even contain protein. Try pickled beets for extra tang on salads and grazing boards (they pair especially well with goat cheese) or as a tasty topper for sandwiches and wraps. Another reason to love pickled beets: they’re easy to make at home. This tasty recipe combines them with pickled hardboiled eggs for an eye-catching addition to any appetizer spread.
Salty, earthy miso paste is a protein-rich staple in Japanese cuisine. Made from fermented soy beans, miso is chock full of good-for-your-gut probiotics. Studies have also linked it to reduced inflammation and a decreased risk of certain cancers. Just a small amount of miso can add huge, umami-rich flavor to all kinds of dips, dressings, and marinades. Or try the simple combo of miso and honey to turn up the taste volume on vegetables, like these crispy smashed Brussels sprouts.
If you’re unfamiliar with kombucha, think of it as iced tea with an attitude. A slightly effervescent, fermented tea, kombucha is an on-the-go source of drinkable probiotics. It also boasts many of the health benefits found in green tea, like antioxidants and anti-inflammatory effects. Naturally crisp and tangy kombucha pairs well with citrus, like in this refreshing cucumber lemon mocktail. Just a head’s up: kombucha does contain trace amounts of alcohol.