How to Shop a Grocery Store for Gut Health—Plus 12 Probiotic Foods We Like
It's easier (and more delicious) than ever to get your daily dose of probiotics. Here are products that really help you reap the benefits.
Probiotics are the “good” bacteria (or live cultures) perhaps best known for their contribution to yogurt.
They are categorized by their genus (e.g., Bacillus), their species (e.g., coagulans), then strain (e.g., GBI-30, 6086), and the benefits can vary greatly. Some help to restore healthy gut flora following antibiotic use, and others aid digestion and bolster the immune system. Some are thought to be good for your mental health and may even curb obesity.
The effective dose of various probiotic strains is measured in colony-forming units (CFUs), and some experts suggest aiming for 1 billion or more CFUs per serving to reap their benefits. The FDA hasn’t approved any probiotic product for preventing or treating health ailments, but there is growing research to support the benefits of daily probiotic intake.
Although food brands are now adding them to juices, snacks, teas, and even condiments, most studies of probiotics’ benefits test specific strains found in supplements versus fortified foods. Even when numbers of CFUs are included on the label, there are no labeling standards to ensure what’s listed is indeed in the product, so it’s hard to say if they live up to their hype. That said, a good rule of thumb is to seek out probiotic-enriched products with multiple strains.
Here, we inventoried the new-to-the-market foods and drinks with probiotic claims and dug into their legitimacy. And some companies were generous in sharing their products’ CFU count. The verdict? We can’t guarantee they’ll work wonders on your gut, but we did find each of these to be delicious.
Some shelf-stable probiotic products contain the strain Bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086. It’s encased in a protective spore, helping it survive manufacturing processes that most other strains cannot. The research is new, but this probiotic could help boost immunity and quell inflammation.
PURELY ELIZABETH PROBIOTIC GRANOLA
This lightly sweetened and supremely crunchy midday pick-me-up has 500 million CFUs of B. coagulans per serving. Sprinkle it over yogurt or a kefir-based smoothie for a double dose of probiotics.
FARMHOUSE CULTURE KRAUT KRISPS
Sauerkraut (the first ingredient) is full of good bugs, but they’re likely killed when baked. However, shelf-stable B. coagulans is sprinkled on after baking, with 1 billion CFUs per serving. Try the White Cheddar flavor—it’s lowest in sodium.
GOOD CULTURE COTTAGE CHEESE
Not all cottage cheeses offer probiotics, and while we can’t verify the CFU count, Good Culture comes with two subspecies of Lactococcus lactis, which can help buffer the gut lining and balance good bacteria, plus Lactobacillus paracasei, which can help digest dairy.
GOODBELLY PROTIOTICS CRUNCHYBAR
These new bars deliver 1 billion CFUs of shelf-stable Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis BB-12, which can help reduce tummy inflammation and bolster the lining of your GI tract, in a low-sugar, grab-and-go snack.
Change your habits now.
Kombucha and kefir have become the near-ubiquitous good-bug beverages, but now they’re faced with some friendly bacteria competition. Below are a few of our other favorite probiotic- packed drinks—from tangy to sweet to simply refreshing—vying for the liquid limelight right now.
FARMHOUSE CULTURE GUT PUNCH SPARKLING PROBIOTIC DRINK
Effervescent like kombucha, this kvass-style beverage has an earthy sweetness from beets and is packed with 4 billion CFUs of B. coagulans. Try the cola flavor to help kick your afternoon soda habit for just 2g sugar.
SUJA PRESSED PROBIOTIC WATER
If the tart taste of kombucha is off-putting to you, probiotic waters are a refreshing alternative. At 10 calories and 1g of sugar or less, they offer a subtle sweetness (from real fruit) plus 2 billion CFUs of B. coagulans per bottle.
GOODBELLY PROBIOTICS INFUSED BEVERAGE
Fruit-forward and faintly sweet with only 20 calories and 5g sugar, these probiotic powerhouses offer 20 billion CFUs of Lactobacillus plantarum 299v, which studies show may help improve digestion and boost immunity. (They also sell a 2.7-ounce shot.)
KEVITA SPARKLING PROBIOTIC DRINK
These bubbly, refreshingly fruity beverages have 4 billion CFUs and the added benefit of three bacteria: Lactobacillus rhamnosus and L. plantarum, which may protect against harmful food-borne bacteria, and B. coagulans.
More Probiotic Products to Try
This assortment of everyday products is worth adding to your grocery cart and keeping on hand. We use (and enjoy) them regardless of their probiotic claim. (Any good-bug benefits are simply a plus.)
NANCY'S CULTURED SOUR CREAM
Thick, creamy, and with the hallmark tang, this sour cream offers CFU counts in the billions of a broad range of probiotics, including Lactobacillus acidophilus LA-5, which can help restore good gut flora after antibiotics.
ENJOY LIFE MUFFIN MIX WITH ANCIENT GRAINS
Delightfully moist and fluffy, this convenient, ready-to-use muffin mix gets its probiotic claim from B. coagulans. Add a handful of raspberries to the batter for a dose of prebiotics (food for probiotics).
BIGELOW LEMON GINGER TEA PLUS PROBIOTICS
Unlike most probiotic drinks, this tastes like an everyday herbal tea with a lively blend of citrus and ginger. With the addition of B. coagulans, it’s both soothing and protective—remember it for cold and flu season.
WILDBRINE PROBIOTIC SPICY KIMCHI SRIRACHA
Made with double- fermented vegetables and no added sugars, this kicky condiment includes a wide variety of live cultures and claims an average of 1 billion CFUs per 1 teaspoon serving.