Every morning for six years, yogurt was part of my breakfast. It wasn’t that I particularly loved the taste, but when you’re a professional snooze button-pusher like myself, healthy grab-n-go morning eats become mainstays. Recently, however, I began noticing that yogurt was no longer agreeing with my stomach. So, I bid adieu to my beloved Vanilla Siggi's and said hello to hard-boiled eggs.
My tummy troubles have since subsided, but my gut feeling (pun intended) is that my breakfast swap may come back to haunt me. Without my daily yogurt, I’m no longer consuming any probiotics—the good bacteria that plays an essential role in everything from mood to weight maintenance. And when your good gut bugs become depleted, the bad belly bacteria can take over, causing inflammation and weight gain—even if your diet and exercise routine remains totally unchanged. Scary, right?
Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not currently regulate probiotic foods or dietary ingredients, I was curious to see what probiotic-infused superfoods were available in my local supermarket. As it turns out, there’re tons of options—maybe even a bit too many! Read on to check out the products I discovered, and learn which ones nutritionists think may be worth adding to your daily diet, too. And if you're lucky enough to have zero trouble with yogurt or just want inspo for what to sprinkle on your oatmeal, check out these 30 Healthy Toppings for Weight Loss.
FOR YOUR FORK & SPOON…
We asked a team of nutrition experts which bacteria-infused eats should be on your Eat This! list and which are better left on the shelf.
Eden Foods Organic Miso Mugi
Eden Foods combines soybeans and barley and then puts them through the traditional koji fermentation process to produce a salty and thick miso paste that their customers can’t get enough of. Add the stuff to soups, use it as a seasoning alternative to salt or soy sauce, or roll up your sleeves and use it to make a salad dressing. Simply combine 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar with 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and 1 scant teaspoon of miso paste in a large bowl. Toss the mixture over a bed of greens and enjoy. So simple!
The Bottom Line: Miso Mugi is an Eat This! In fact, registered dietitian Lisa Moskovitz says fermented foods like miso are some of the very best sources of probiotics on the planet.
Good Culture Organic Cottage Cheese
To be clear: Not all cottage cheeses contain probiotics. But Good Culture’s tubs are packed with live and active cultures, and they come in a variety of sweet and savory flavors like tomato, olive, and blueberry açaí chia. Though dairy products are packed with slow digesting protein and have been shown to enhance probiotic absorption, that doesn’t make this product a clear cut winner or loser. “Cottage cheese is generally high in sodium—and this line is no different—so people with elevated blood pressure may want to skip it. People who bloat easily and those with lactose intolerance should also pass on it,” advises Sarah Koszyk, MA, RDN, founder of Family. Food. Fiesta..
The Bottom Line: This is definitely healthy enough to be an Eat This! but don’t making it your go-to source of probiotics unless the rest of your diet is relatively low in salt. (Salt, by the way, is lurking in some surprising places—like these 20 Restaurant Desserts With More Salt Than A Bag of Pretzels!)
Probiotic Melt Organic Buttery Spread
This blend of coconut, sunflower, and flaxseed oils is spiked with a patented probiotic called GanedenBC30. The makers of the product claim that the bacteria survives 10 times better in the gut than yogurt cultures, and, in turn can bolster immunity and digestive health more effectively. “GanedenBC30 contains the probiotic strain, Bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086. This strain is different than the standard probiotic strain, Lactobacillus, which is more commonly found in probiotic products,” explains Koszyk. “Some research has suggested GanedenBC30 might increase immune system functions and decrease harmful gut bacteria. However, there is currently not enough research to guarantee specific benefits claims.”
The Bottom Line: Fermented foods like sauerkraut and green olives are likely more potent sources of probiotics than a man-made buttery spread spiked with gut bugs. But if you’re interested in getting extra probiotics in, Koszyk gives you the green light. “I wouldn’t depend on it as your sole source since there's no way to know how many of the probiotics are actually making it into your system. That said, it is a source of a less common probiotic and consuming various strains can only benefit gut health,” she explains. If you wind up giving it a try, spread it onto one of these 25 Best Carbs for Weight Loss
Enjoy Life Foods Baking Mixes
We love that Enjoy Life’s baking mixes are free of scary stuff like hydrogenated oil and caramel coloring (the potentially cancer-causing chemical that makes cola brown), but they shouldn’t be your go-to source of probiotics. Sure, they contain the bacteria bacillus coagulans, but the little buggers have very poor resistance to heat. “Probiotics are usually destroyed when cooked at high temperatures, so you’re likely not reaping many of their healthy gut benefits,” explains Moskovitz.
The Bottom Line: If you want brownies or muffins with a clean ingredient profile, go ahead and grab a box. But when it comes to weight loss and gut health, they likely won’t help.
Lifeway Lite Probiotic Farmer Cheese
If you’re a lactose-intolerant cheese lover, this kefir-based, crumbly salad-topper may be for you. Kefir, a tangy, sour-tasting drink made from fermented cow's milk, is 99% lactose-free and contains 12 key cultures for a happy, healthy belly.
The Bottom Line: This cheese is a go! “This product is minimally processed and is a good source of calcium. Overall, it’s not a bad way to get some probiotics in,” says Koszyk.
Attune Probiotic Dark Chocolate
In theory, when you eat a piece of dark chocolate, microbes in your gut ferment the antioxidants and fiber in the cocoa into anti-inflammatory compounds that stop belly bloat. But unfortunately, it’s not a surefire way to fill your gut with beneficial bacteria. “Each person’s gut has a different composition of bacterial flora, so everyone will benefit differently depending on how much cocoa is broken down by these microbes,” explains Koszyk. Packed with three different strains of probiotics, adding Attune’s Probiotic Dark Chocolate to your candy drawer can help you get more healthy gut benefits from your sweet tooth indulgence.
The Bottom Line: Studies show that chocolate is indeed a suitable way to deliver probiotics to your belly, so go ahead and eat this sweet treat if you’re intrigued. But before you shell out the extra cash, just know that a regular dark chocolate bar may be just as beneficial; the verdict is still out. Whatever you decide, though, watch your portion size—chocolate is still considered to be a caloric dessert. For more nutritious fare you should scale back on, check out these 20 Healthy Foods You Better Eat In Moderation—stat!
Udi's Gluten Free Ancient Grains with Probiotics Granola Bar
Probiotics are a lot like popsicles—they don’t do well in the heat. For that reason, Udi adds in the probiotic Bacillus coagulans into their flax, almond, amaranth and quinoa bars after they’re done baking.
The Bottom Line: Despite the better baking method, you can’t rely on dry snack foods as your only or best source of probiotics, says Moskovitz. Plus, these bars have 10 grams of sugar and just 2 grams of satiating fiber, which isn’t the best ratio of nutrients when you’re trying to melt your love handles.
Linwoods Ground Flaxseed with Probiotics & Vitamin D
This is yet another product packed with GanedenBC30—and Linwoods is charging an arm and a leg for it. While a typical bag of flax will cost you about $0.42 an ounce, their probiotic variety goes for about $1.25 an ounce, which is more than three times as much!
The Bottom Line: “Be cautious of cost when considering which probiotic foods to buy,” warns Koszyk. “If food makers are charging more for the product because of the added bacteria, it may be a good indicator that it's more a marketing ploy than a product with many additional benefits.” She suggests you stick to regular ground flax (it makes a great addition to oatmeal, smoothies, and cold cereals) and get your probiotics elsewhere.
FOR YOUR DRINKING GLASS…
Constantly getting your nutrition in while on the go? A number of these trendy sips can help boost your immunity and improve your gut health.
Kevita Sparkling Probiotic Drinks
KeVita blends their proprietary probiotic culture blend with flavor enhancers like fruit extracts and coconut water to create their flavorful and refreshing beverages. Chugging an entire bottle will cost you anywhere from 10 to 90 calories and 2 to 10 grams of sugar. (They rely on stevia to keep the counts on the conservative side.) Yeah, it’s better than something like a can of soda, but we’re not sure it’s worth it unless you genuinely enjoy the taste.
The Bottom Line: If you want to give KeVita a try, it certainly won’t hurt you, but it may not really help to improve your intestinal flora, either. Unlike other foods and drinks that contain both pro- and prebiotics (the food that helps probiotics thrive), there’s no way to tell how much of the bacteria will still be viable by the time it makes it to your kitchen and into your tummy.
Kombucha tea: It’s otherwise known as Kargasok tea or the not-so-glamorous “tea fungus,” and it’s made by fermenting sweetened black tea. Proponents of the probiotic-filled, apple cider-flavored drink claim that it can stimulate the immune system, prevent cancer, aid weight loss, and improve gut health. As a result, kombucha enthusiasts promote it as a cure-all for everything from HIV and cancer to the hair loss and indigestion. “When a product is said to cure everything, it seldom actually cures anything. There are no studies on humans that show kombucha promotes good health,” says Kelly Choi, author of The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse.
The Bottom Line: Unpasteurized kombucha drinks like GT’s have been linked to bacterial infections, allergic reactions, and liver damage—making this drink a definite Not That!
Swanson GreenFoods Formulas Vegan Protein with Probiotics
Swanson combines two strains of bacteria with hemp, rice, and pea protein to create their tub of scoopable nutrition.
The Bottom Line: In theory, this all sounds like a good thing—a terrific two-for-one option for smoothie and protein shake lovers alike—but unfortunately, the makers behind this blend also packed in tons of brown rice syrup solids, which ups the sugar count to a whopping 20 grams in a standard three-scoop serving. Skip it.
Bigelow Lemon Ginger Herb Plus Probiotics Tea
Here at Eat This, Not That! we’re huge fans of all kinds of teas, but we weren’t sure what to think about a tea that’s been packed with probiotics. So, of course, we asked Choi, our resident tea expert, to weigh in: “The effectiveness of probiotic tea is still up for debate. It’s really hard to say how much of the bacteria is still in the tea bag once it makes it into your kitchen—and it’s even harder to determine how much can actually make it down into your stomach.”
The Bottom Line: “Give it a try if you’re curious; there’s not much to lose. “To preserve the most probiotics as possible, let the water cool a bit before adding the tea bag to your cup. This will ensure more of the bacteria survive,” explains Choi. She also says to watch steep times and follow the box instructions exactly. “The instructions present the brand’s ideal. Following suit means you’ll have the best chance of the nutrient making it into your system.” Curious which teas Choi recommends for a flat belly? Check out these 22 Best Teas for Weight Loss!
Love Grace Probiotic Smoothie
“Love Grace Probiotic Smoothie uses the same strain of probiotics as in the MELT organic butter spread, GanedenBC30,” says Koszyk. “The vegan smoothie contains a good dosage of the probiotic, but every 16-ounce bottle contains 280 calories and 28 grams of carbohydrates from the fruit. So, be aware of how much you drink.”
The Bottom Line: Drink this! But split it into two servings if you’re watching your carb intake. And for more diet must-haves, check out these 25 Best Foods for a Toned Body.
Lifeway Veggie Kefir
Generally speaking, kefir is an excellent source of probiotics and bone-strengthening calcium, Koszyk tells us. And Lifeways Veggie Kefir, which serves up a full serving of veggies in each container, is no exception. “The product contains 12 different probiotic strains and a high dosage, too—more than 10 billion,” says Koszyk. Bonus: “Since kefir has fewer milk sugars than regular milk, many people who do not tolerate milk well can sip kefir without an issue.”
The Bottom Line: “This product is a good source of probiotics to improve gut health,” says Koszyk. “In regards to weight management, always try to remember: Calories in drinks count! (Each on has 110 calories and 15 grams of sugar.) You still need to stay mindful of how much you are consuming daily. Use the kefir as a high protein snack or part of a meal.”