Fermented Foods: 10 Health Benefits of Probiotics

Medically reviewed by Natalie Butler, RD, LD on April 17, 2017Written by Natalie Silver on April 17, 2017

Fermented foods and probiotics

According to research, probiotics can help with health conditions that involve your gastrointestinal system and other parts of your body. Probiotics are microorganisms that can help your body break down “bad” microorganisms. This leads to health benefits and reduces illness. Probiotics can also help your body produce needed vitamins and recover after using antibiotics. Probiotics can be found in fermented foods, which contain bacteria or yeast.

Consuming foods and beverages with probiotics may benefit your body, as long as you’re healthy. But you should talk with your doctor before consuming probiotics if you have underlying health conditions, especially if you have a depressed immune system. Probiotics are not approved or regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so be cautious.

The following is a list of fermented foods that contain probiotics. Note these foods have live cultures in them and should be refrigerated and stored properly. Make sure the foods and beverages are still fresh and healthy when you consume them.

1. Yogurt

Yogurt is a commonly identified probiotic-rich food. It’s made from fermented milk and bacteria. The bacteria in yogurt are Lactobacillus and Streptococcus. Yogurt is thought to help with gastrointestinal issues and other health conditions. There are many types of yogurt available at the grocery store, so it is likely you’ll find one you like. Yogurt can be enjoyed for breakfast, a snack, or even dessert. Pair it with fresh fruit.

2. Aged cheese

Aged cheeses contain probiotics. One type of popular aged cheese is Parmigiano Reggiano. It’s associated with all sorts of health benefits. This cheese is free of lactose, has a lot of calcium, and can be digested by most people, including young children.

3. Pickles

Lacto-fermented pickles contain probiotics. Lacto-fermentation is a process that promotes healthy bacteria and reduces bad bacteria because of a high salt content. This process also ferments the main ingredient you aim to preserve. Sauerkraut, kimchi, and other pickled fruits and vegetables are prepared this way.

Pickles available in the grocery store may not be the ones you should get because they are made with vinegar. Try making your own or buying refrigerated pickles. When cucumbers are in season, purchase them at a produce stand in bulk and make them yourself. All you need are the cucumbers, a sea salt mixture, and seasonings.

4. Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is made from fermented cabbage and contains probiotics. It is associated with Eastern European cooking. You can make your own at home with just two ingredients: cabbage and salt. Sauerkraut is a side dish that pairs well with many Eastern European dishes, such as sausage or pierogis.

5. Kimchi

Kimchi is similar to sauerkraut. It is a fermented vegetable side dish. It contains cabbage as well as other vegetables like scallions and radishes. Kimchi also contains spices and other flavorings. Some of these include garlic, ginger, and red pepper. Not only does this Korean food have probiotics, but the other ingredients in the fermented mixture have added health benefits.

6. Fermented vegetables and fruits

Pickles, sauerkraut, and kimchi are not the only fermented vegetables you can enjoy to get your probiotics. You can find other seasonal vegetables and fruits to enjoy fermented. You might want to try lacto-fermented green beans, salsa, carrots, tomato sauce, or even applesauce.

7. Miso

Miso is another fermented food containing probiotics. Miso is commonly used in Japanese cooking as well as in other Asian foods. Miso is the result of the fermentation of soybeans and fungus called koji. It contains Lactobacillus acidophilus bacteria, which creates lactase and vitamin K.

8. Tempeh

Like miso, tempeh contains Lactobacillus acidophilus bacteria, a probiotic. Tempeh is a meat substitute that many vegetarians and vegans enjoy, though meat eaters may want to try the food as well. It’s made with soybeans and grains and fermented with a culture.

9. Kefir

Kefir is a probiotic that you drink. Kefir originated in Eastern Europe and is based from kefir grains, which include yeast and bacteria. This results in a fermented beverage. Kefir has a distinct taste and texture, so you may want to try it in small amounts to start or by combining it with other ingredients. You can also purchase kefir flavored with fruits.

10. Kombucha

Kombucha is another type of fermented beverage. You can make it at home or purchase it at the grocery or health foods store. It includes tea, sugar or juice, water, and a bacteria or yeast colony. You can enjoy it as a replacement for soda or other sugary drinks.


Including more probiotics in your diet may maintain your health, especially your gastrointestinal system. These fermented foods can be a tasty way to help you consume more probiotics.

Make sure to discuss probiotics with your doctor if you have a medical condition.

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