Case in point? The following gut-friendly beverages, all which are rich in probiotics, or live and active cultures known to diversify and balance the 'good' bacteria in your gut.
It makes perfect sense: Gut health has become top of mind for many, and probiotic drinks are an easy and convenient way to support a happy, healthy microbiome. To that end, we caught up with Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, LD, CLEC, CPT, a registered dietitian based in Charleston, who shared some of the top types of beverages for your gut (from kombucha and kefir to, yes, soda). Ahead, the best probiotic drinks on the market according to an RD—plus what you need to know before you buy in terms of flavor, ingredients, price, health perks, and more.
The 6 best probiotic drinks, at a glance:
- Best Kefir: Lifeway Organic Whole Milk Kefir Smoothie
- Best Kombucha: Health-Ade Kombucha
- Best Soda: Culture Pop Sparkling Probiotic Soda
- Best Tepache: De La Calle Tepache
- Best Yogurt Drink: Chobani Greek Yogurt Drink
- Best Dairy-Free Drink: Lifeway Organic Oat Milk
What drinks are high in probiotics?
According to Manaker, there are four main types of probiotic drinks: kefir, kombucha, probiotic shots, and certain sodas. That said, one in particular is a standout favorite for the registered dietitian when it comes to maximum microbiome-boosting benefits.
“When I think of a drink that is a powerhouse source of probiotics, the first one that comes to mind is kefir, which is a fermented dairy beverage,” Manaker says. “There is data suggesting that consuming kefir regularly may support gut health. Plus, opting for a choice, like kefir, that generally contains no added sugar is going to be your best bet,” she says. Of course, if you're dairy-free or simply don't enjoy the taste of kefir, you can certain reach for one of the other three drinks.
Are probiotics drinks good for you?
Of course, probiotic drinks are far from the end-all-be-all solution to finally finding gut harmony. (Those don't exist, and that is okay.) While probiotics do help feed the healthy bacteria in your microbiome, Manaker notes that relying solely on probiotic drinks alone won’t get you very far if you, say, avoid eating vegetables or consistently consume a few too many glasses of Pinot. Rather, they should be consumed as part of a well-balanced diet to reap the positive effects they may have to offer. To that end, in addition to consuming probiotics via drinks like kefir, Manaker suggests consuming these three other foods that are also naturally high in probiotics: sauerkraut, kimchi, and certain yogurts.
When you do go for the probiotic drink route, Manaker says you'll reap the most gut health perks with these guidelines in mind: “Some options can contain large quantities of added sugar, which, in large quantities, can be linked to negative health outcomes,” she says. Indeed, scientific studies have shown that added sugar can lead to chronic inflammation that can affect heart, brain, and gut health. “When it comes to added sugar and gut health, there's still a lot we don't know. But scientific studies do suggest that it promotes an inflammatory profile in the gut and damages the microbiome,” Will Bulsiewicz, MD, a gastroenterologist and New York Times bestselling author of The Fiber Fueled Cookbook, previously shared with Well+Good.
When should I drink probiotics?
According to Manaker, when you take probiotics isn’t as important as how you do it. Although the best time to take probiotics will vary from person to person, the registered dietitian emphasizes it’s best to consume it with a source of prebiotic fiber, which is something most folks forget to do. “Generally speaking, any time of the day that you can sneak in a serving of probiotic food is a good idea. However, pairing probiotics with prebiotic foods is advised, as prebiotic fiber acts as ‘fuel’ for the probiotics,” Manaker says. A few options to avoid this common mistake? “Jerusalem artichoke, a slightly underripe banana, and onions are good sources of prebiotics,” she says.
"Pairing probiotics with prebiotic fiber is advised, as prebiotic fiber acts as ‘fuel’ for the probiotics. Jerusalem artichoke, a slightly underripe banana, and onions are good sources of prebiotics,” Manaker says
6 best probiotic drinks for gut health
Lifeway Organic Plain Whole Milk Kefir is packed with protein, calcium, and 12 live and active probiotic cultures. It has a luscious, creamy consistency with a tangy aftertaste, which makes it perfect for blending into smoothies, topping with granola, or eating on its own. What’s more, it’s up to 99 percent lactose-free, gluten-free, and made with all organic ingredients. To sweeten the deal even more, it comes in a variety of flavors, like Organic Strawberry Banana Whole Milk Kefir and Organic Black Cherry Whole Milk Kefir.
According to Caroline Margolis, RD at Lifeway Foods, kefir is a probiotic powerhouse filled with essential nutrients important for everyday health. “One eight-ounce serving of Lifeway kefir contains a diverse set of 12 live and active cultures—25 to 30 billion beneficial colony forming units, or CFUs—which is double the amount of yogurt, kombucha, and some other probiotic beverages on the market,” Margolis says. She adds that kefir is a good source of other essential nutrients, including protein, vitamins B12 and D, and calcium.
“What’s more, Lifeway Kefir has a long fermentation process that produces bioactive peptides, which offer probiotics as well as potential anti-inflammatory, anti-hypertensive, and antioxidant properties, making kefir a great food to support our immune, digestive, and cardiovascular health,” Margolis says.
- One eight-ounce serving of Lifeway kefir contains a diverse set of 12 live and active cultures
- Organic ingredients
- Kefir is a good source of essential nutrients, including protein, vitamins B12 and D, and calcium
- Tons of delicious flavors, like Organic Strawberry Banana Whole Milk Kefir and Organic Black Cherry Whole Milk Kefir
- Tangy aftertaste can be new to those who are new to kefir
- Not vegan-friendly
Sweet, tangy, and packed with boatloads of gut-friendly probiotics, Health-Ade Kombucha deserves every bit of hype. Best part? It’s vegan, gluten-free, organic, and magically delicious. Not convincing enough, perhaps the one billion CFUs it contains can sweeten up the deal. Additionally, you’ll likely find the best assortment of flavors in this line of drinks, like their newly-launched Guava Dragon Fruit kombucha.
- Top-notch assortment of delicious flavors
- Packaging = beautiful glass bottle
- Organic ingredients
- One billion CFUs
Culture Pop Soda offers a great alternative (packed with probiotics) to traditional sodas made with artificial ingredients. This line of drinks—which comes in flavors like watermelon, rosemary lime, and ginger lemon turmeric—is formulated with organic fruit juice, herbs, spices, and live probiotics. What’s more, each can is vegan-friendly and (importantly) shelf-stable. Unlike other probiotic-rich drinks on the market, this one doesn’t require refrigeration before opening.
- Five delicious flavors
- No added sugar or artificial sweetener
Tepache is a classic Mexican-style drink that’s naturally packed with probiotics thanks to fermented pineapples. De La Calle’s formulation is based on the co-founder’s family recipe and comes in a variety of flavors like Watermelon Jalapeño, Grapefruit Lime, Ginger Manzana, Picante Mango Chili, and Tradicional Pineapple Spice.
- Deliciously vibrant variety of flavors
- Made from fermented pineapples, which are great for your gut
- Low in sugar
- Not for those allergic to pineapple
Probiotic Yogurt Drinks
This protein-packed drinkable Greek yogurt product is made with locally-sourced milk, which gets fermented to form a happy environment for gut-friendly live and active cultures. For delicious flavor, Chobani infuses their yogurt drinks with fresh fruits like strawberries and raspberries. Additionally, unlike other Greek-style yogurt products that may rely on milk protein isolates or whey protein, Chobani uses an authentic straining process that calls for three cups of milk to yield just one cup of fresh Greek yogurt. Translation? It’s packed with protein.
- Rich in gut-friendly live and active cultures (probiotics)
- Infused with fresh fruit flavor
- Not vegan-friendly
Lifeway Oat is made with organic oats and contains 10 live and active vegan-derived probiotic cultures per serving to help promote a balanced and diverse microbiome. This product is dairy-free, and comes in a variety of cozy flavors, including plain, strawberry, peach, mixed berry, and blueberry.
- Plant-based, vegan-friendly
- Certified gluten-free
- Variety of fruity flavors
- Contains 2 grams of fiber per serving
- Tangy aftertaste may be new to those new to kefir
A registered dietitian shares the benefits of drinking kombucha:
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