Powerful Probiotic Foods for Immune Health

Probiotics get a lot of hype. These living microorganisms, or “good” bacteria, provide health benefits that go beyond basic gut health. In fact, scientific studies show that probiotics through lesser known fermented sources strengthen cardiovascular health, promote glowing skin, and even lower symptoms of depression.

Here are the most powerful probiotic foods to keep you healthy:

  1. Miso
    If you’ve been out for sushi lately, chances are you may have enjoyed a bowl of miso soup as the appetizer to your California rolls. Miso is derived from fermented soybeans, and often combined with kogi (a type of fungus), salt, rye, rice, or barley grains to give it a specific red, brown, or yellow color. However, despite serving up a wealth of nutrients—including manganese, vitamin K, and copper—miso contains specific health benefits for women. A 2007 study conducted by the Japan Public Health Center, regular servings of miso reduced the risk of breast cancer and stroke in middle-aged female study participants.
  2. Sauerkraut
    This European condiment and side dish is essentially shredded cabbage fermented using lactic acid bacteria. Despite the fact that sauerkraut is often a topping for sausages (which isn’t necessarily that healthy), on its own, the unpasteurized version of this salty-sour side dish is loaded with iron, manganese, vitamins B, C, and K, fiber, and zeaxanthin and lutein, both antioxidants that promote ocular health, reducing cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
  3. Tempeh
    Like miso, tempeh is made using fermented soybeans, however, it’s formed into a dense,  high-protein, nutty tasting patty with a spongy mushroom taste and consistency. A primary source of plant protein for vegetarians and vegans, tempeh is rich in the plant compound phytic acid because it’s fermentation, which allows for better mineral absorption. Tempeh is also loaded with B12, which is typically reserved for animal proteins vegans don’t get in their diets, like meat, fish, dairy and eggs.
  4. Kefir
    Kefir is often compared to watered down yogurt, but this fermented probiotic milk drink is created by adding kefir grains (which are yeasts and lactic acid bacterial cultures) to animal milk (i.e., goat or cow). Like yogurt, kefir is linked to promoting better gut health, strengthening digestion, and safeguarding against infections. However, kefir is the better source of probiotics as it contains more strains of “good” bacteria and healthy yeasts compared to yogurt. Also, even if you’re lactose intolerant, chances are you can tolerate kefir.