Yogurt, kombucha, kefir? Now, grocery store shelves are quickly filling up with new foods and drinks stuffed with tiny living bacteria that are good for your gut, teeth, skin, and immune system. In a world that moves at iPhone speed, not even probiotics can stand still.
“Probiotics don’t just have to be in a beverage. They can be offered in conjunction with different foods and, with fibrous foods, their effectiveness is potentially enhanced,” explains Kelly Swette, CEO of Sweet Earth Natural Foods, which is leading the evolving fermented food charge with—yes—breakfast burritos. “It’s the next stage. It’s probiotics 2.0,” she pronounces.
Two powerful forces are propelling the spread of probiotics: the development of bacteria that can survive most manufacturing processes (yes, that's a good thing), and soaring consumer demand for an array of better-for-you options. “Our customers are more and more interested in gut health, and they’re looking for quality foods and drinks to deliver on what they’re learning about the benefits of probiotics,” says Ryan White, a grocery buyer at the Portland, Oregon-based chain New Seasons Market.
The bottom line: if yogurt isn’t your jam but you still strive for your digestive tract to be in tip-top shape, you're in luck. Get your grocery-shopping list ready because we’ve picked out 10 unexpected alternatives to probiotic mainstays that will load your diet with valuable microorganisms.
Originally posted December 18, 2015, updated July 5, 2016.
Keep reading for surprising ways to get your gut-healthy probiotic fill.
You’re right to be wary of a beverage that calls itself water when it's actually mostly sugar (ahem, Vitamin Water). Fortunately, Suja is reclaiming flavored water for the sugar-adverse. Last year, the cold-pressed juice brand introduced four varieties of probiotic waters, each containing one gram of sugar or less and just five to 10 calories.
To make them, Suja presses the pomace (pulp) of organic fruits and vegetables it previously juiced, and then adds in plenty of gut-happy microbes. “We chose the amount in the probiotic waters based on what you would get from kombucha,” explains Heather MacNeil, VP of marketing at Suja. “We really saw an opening in the market for people who didn’t like the taste of kombucha and didn’t want the sugar and calories in juice, but didn’t want to compromise on the functionality they were getting from those beverages.”
“Breakfast is undergoing a transformation,” asserts Sweet Earth Natural Foods' Kelly Swette. No kidding: The Get Cultured! Functional Breakfast Burrito, which the plant-based prepared food company proclaims is the first probiotic frozen entrée, is not only a digestive health helper, it’s also chock-full of good-for-you Korean-inspired ingredients. Think fermented red pepper paste, tofu, cabbage, ginger, and sesame.
“There are a lot of people that don’t want to have all the dairy and sugar that are in many yogurt products. This is a very delicious and sensible choice for them," she says. Side effects include actually being excited to get out of bed in the morning.
In the pantheon of healthy snacks, nuts reign supreme. They’re great sources of protein, fiber, unsaturated fat, and vitamins. Gut health, however, is not often something you hear discussed in conjunction with almonds—but Sunbiotics is looking to change that. The microorganism specialist has sprinkled its organic sprouted raw almonds with a blend of vegan probiotics that features four bacterial strains. In case that didn't excite you, this should: They come in chocolate, truffle salt, cheesy, and original flavors.
The grab-and-go crunchy treat boasts a higher level of probiotics than most kombucha sold today. “When people realize that, they're shocked. It’s a lot of probiotics,” says Anna Speaks, who handles sales and marketing for Sunbiotics' parent company Windy City Organics.
Responding to research showing 70 percent of health-conscious consumers prefer probiotic-laden foods to supplements, Melt Organic introduced the gastrointestinal goodies into its dairy-free butter substitute. The creamy spread is a blend of virgin coconut, sunflower, and flaxseed oils, along with active cultures, which the company purports to provide more effectively than yogurt.
Healthy, trendy meal delivery company Sakara Life has made the superfood cacao even more super by pumping up the antioxidant- and fiber-rich sweet with a mix of four probiotic bacterial strains and yacon root, which aids in blood sugar stabilization. Sakara Life recommends you eat one chocolate before bed, but two sounds like a good idea, too.
Is your blender bored? Enliven it with live organisms. Bob’s Red Mill, best known for its all-natural grains, is branching out with pantry staples for your shakes and smoothies.
The company's line of nutritional boosters (AKA protein powders) don’t skimp on the probiotics, prebiotics, and omega-3s. That's not all: Sweetened with monk fruit extract, the boosters include pea protein fiber, chia seeds, inulin, and psyllium as well. Oh, and it comes in chai, chocolate, and vanilla flavors (plus a version that's also protein and fiber-packed). So sip to your heart's content.
Is there anything that could possibly improve upon the dream snack of bananas slathered in almond butter? Yumbutter is betting that probiotics can. The company has infused gut-friendly cultures into the creamy spreadable (which also has sprouted rice protein to boot). “It’s a way for people to get probiotics in, and they don’t have to think about it,” says Matt D’Amour, cofounder of Yumbutter. Slather away.
The founders of Brio!, twins Arnie and Ron Koss, say their probiotic ice cream is so nutrient-dense that it can actually serve as a meal replacement (yes, seriously). The flavors, which range from vanilla caramel to tropical mango, have 24 micronutrients including vitamins A, C, and E, B12, zinc, and iron. And that's all in addition to the added probiotics and prebiotics. So it's totally justified to have one pint for dinner and another for dessert, right?
Not all granola is good for you, but it's hard to argue with one that touts vegan probiotic strands that were perfected to survive the heat of baking. Made with quinoa, millet, and chia, Purely Elizabeth has found a way to make your morning oatmeal or smoothie even better for you. For a one-two probiotic punch, add it to a bowl of gut-friendly, full-fat yogurt.
There are teas to ease PMS, give you energy (oh hey there matcha), and usher in sweet dreams, so it makes sense there would be one to promote gut health, right? Yogi's cranberry spice flavored herbal blend does exactly that, with the help of Ayurveda-inspired tart flavors to keep your digestive track balanced. Just steep and then sip to reap the benefits.
Everything you need to know about gut health, all in one place? Consider this cheat sheet our gift to your gut microbiome. And as if eating and drinking your probiotics wasn't enough, now there are gut-healthy cleaning products for your home.
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