Yogurt is one of the most familiar sources of probiotics -- "good" bacteria that keep a healthy balance in your gut. Studies suggest that probiotics can help ease lactose intolerance. They also may help tame gas, diarrhea, and other digestive problems. You can pay extra for special digestive yogurt brands, but any with "live and active cultures" listed may help.
Sauerkraut Boosts Digestion
Choose the unpasteurized kind, because pasteurization (used to treat most supermarket sauerkraut) kills active, good bacteria. This sour, salty food -- and the similar but spicy Korean dish, kimchi -- is also loaded with immune-boosting vitamins that may help ward off infection.
A popular breakfast food in Japan, this fermented soybean paste can get your digestive system moving. Probiotic-filled miso is often used to make a salty soup that's low in calories and high in B vitamins and protective antioxidants.
While they might be good for your digestion, not all probiotics can survive the journey through your stomach and intestines. But research finds that certain strains in some fermented soft cheeses, like Gouda, are hardy enough to make it. Cheese also may act as a carrier for probiotics, which may boost the immune system.
Kefir: Probiotic-Filled Drink
According to legend, kefir dates back to the shepherds of Eurasia's Caucasus Mountains. They discovered the milk they carried tended to ferment into a bubbly beverage. Thick, creamy, and tangy like yogurt, kefir has its own strains of probiotic bacteria, plus a few helpful yeast varieties.
The next time you make a sandwich, pay attention to what's holding your cold cuts and cheese. San Francisco's famous sourdough bread packs a probiotic that may help digestion.
Milk With Probiotics
One of the easiest ways to get probiotics into your diet is by adding acidophilus milk. It's milk that's been fermented with bacteria. Sometimes it's labeled sweet acidophilus milk. Buttermilk -- usually milk that's cultured with lactic acid bacteria -- is also rich in probiotics.
When looking to pickles for probiotics, choose naturally fermented kinds, where vinegar wasn't used in the pickling process. A sea salt and water solution feeds the growth of good bacteria and may give sour pickles some digestive benefits.
Made from a base of fermented soybeans, this Indonesian patty makes a type of natural antibiotic that fights certain bacteria. Tempeh is also high in protein. People often describe its flavor as smoky, nutty, and similar to a mushroom. You can marinate tempeh and use it in meals in place of meat.
Aside from being found in foods, probiotics come in supplements in capsule, tablet, powder, and liquid forms. Although they don't provide the extra nutrition that foods can offer, they can be convenient. If you're interested, talk to your doctor. If you're ill or have immune system problems, you may want to be cautious about taking probiotics.
Prebiotics vs. Probiotics
While probiotic-foods have live bacteria, prebiotic foods feed the good bacteria already living in your gut. You can find prebiotics in items such as asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, bananas, oatmeal, red wine, honey, maple syrup, and legumes. Try prebiotic foods on their own or with probiotic foods to perhaps give the probiotics a boost.