What are Probiotics?
The word probiotic means "for life," and according to the World Health Organization, probiotics are live microorganisms that when consumed in a sufficient amount, can have health benefits beyond basic nutrition. We think of probiotics as "healthy bacteria" which we can get through supplements and the foods we eat. Consuming a variety of probiotics on a regular basis can help support the balance of your microflora, aka all of the bacteria in your gut, which in turn can benefit your body in many ways. The benefits you receive are dependent upon the different strains of probiotics you consume and the amount.
The Health Benefits of Probiotics
Researchers still have much to learn when it comes to probiotics. Some strains have been studied more aggressively offering greater scientific evidence and understanding of their various health benefits while overall, much is still unknown.
- Digestion and Digestive Disorders: Eating probiotics regularly can help with digestion and offer a level of protection against detrimental bacteria. Some studies show that probiotics may help with ulcerative colitis, Chron's disease, and irritable bowel syndrome.
- Immunity: Probiotics may support your GI tract and your immune system by acting as a source of good bacteria for your gut.
- Diarrhea: Probiotics may help prevent and treat diarrhea including diarrhea associated with antibiotic therapy. Probiotics help restore a healthy balance of gut bacteria which antibiotics can negatively impact.
- Mental Health: Emerging research shows that probiotics may play a role in mental health. A recent review of 38 randomized controlled studies (15 of which were human) showed that two strains— Bifidobacterium and
Lactobacillus—improved anxiety, depression, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
- Weight Management: Although more research needs to be conducted before conclusions are made, some studies suggest certain probiotics may help with weight loss in overweight men and women.
Which Yogurt Brands Contain Probiotics?
Califia Farms Probiotic Yogurt Drink
Live Active Cultures Present: Califia Farm Culture Blend BB12™ Bifidobacteria 10 billion CFUs
Attributes: 3g protein, 16g sugar per servingDairy-free, coconut- and almond-basedFlavors: Plain, Strawberry, Mango and BlueberryCost per ounce: $0.30
Chobani Greek Yogurt Blended
Live Active Cultures Present: S. Thermophilus, L. Bulgaricus, L. Acidophilus, Bifidus, L. Casei
Attributes: 11-12g protein, 12-17g sugar per servingFlavors: Apple Cinnamon, Mixed Berry, Peach, Strawberry and moreCost per ounce: $0.19
Dannon Activia Fruit Probiotic Yogurt
Live Active Cultures Present: Bifidobacterium animalis lactis DN-173 010/CNCM I-2494, Streptococcus thermophilus, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Lactococcus lactis. Every cup of Activia yogurt contains billions of our live probiotic culture.
Attributes: 4 g protein, 11-13g sugar per servingContains gelatinFlavors: Vanilla, Prune, Black Cherry and moreCost per ounce: $0.16
Fage Total 2% Plain
Live Active Cultures Present: L. Bulgaricus, S. Themophilus, L. Acidophilus, Bifidus, L. Casei
Attributes: 20g protein, 6g sugar per servingCost per ounce: $0.14
Forager Coconut Cashewgurt
Live Active Cultures Present: L. Bulgaricus, S. Themophilus, L. Acidophilus, Bifidus, L. Lactis, L. Plantarum
Attributes: 6g sugar, 2g protein per servingOrganic, Coconut- and Cashew-based, Dairy-free, and VeganFlavors: Berry, Lime, Coconut, and MangoCost per ounce: $0.31
Kite Hill Greek-Style Almond Milk Yogurt
Live Active Cultures Present: S. Thermophilus, L. Bulgaricus, L. Acidophilus, Bifidobacteria
Attributes: 10g protein, 2-13g sugar per serving
Almond-based, Dairy-free, and Vegan
Flavors: Black Cherry, Strawberry, Mango, Vanilla, and more
Cost per ounce: $0.32
Liberte Whole Milk Yogurt
Live Active Cultures Present: L. Bulgaricus, S. Thermophilus, L. Acidophilus, L. Paracasei, Bifidobacterium sp.
Attributes: 4-5g protein, 20-21g sugar per servingOrganicFlavors: California Pomegranate, French Lavender, Sweet Cream, Baja Strawberry and moreCost per ounce: $0.29
Noosa Classic Cultures Yoghurt
Live Active Cultures Present: L. Thermophilus, L. Bulgaricus, L. Acidophilus, Bifidus, L. Casei
Attributes: 11-12g protein, 30-35g sugar per servingContains gelatinFlavors: Coconut, Key Lime, Honey, Apple Cinnamon and moreCost per ounce: $0.29
Ripple Greek Yogurt Alternative Live Active Cultures Present: Bifidobacterium Bifidum, L. Acidophilus, L. Paracasei, L. Bulgaricus, S. Thermophilus
Attributes: 12g protein, 6-15g sugar per serving
Dairy-free, Vegan, Pea Protein
Flavors: Original, Vanilla, Strawberry, Blueberry and Maple
Cost per ounce: $0.32
Siggi's 2% Low-fat Yogurt Live Active Cultures Present: S. Thermophilus, L. Delbrueckii Susp. Bulgaricus, B. Lactis, L. Acidophilus, L. Delbrueckii Susp. Lactis
Attributes: 15g protein, 10-11g sugar per serving
Simple Ingredient List
Flavors: Coconut, Black Cherry, Vanilla & Cinnamon, Blackberry and more
Cost per ounce: $0.28
Stonyfield Organic Smooth & Creamy Yogurt:
Live Active Cultures Present: S. thermophilus, L. bulgaricus, L. acidophilus, Bifidus, L. Paracasei and L. Rhamnosus.
Attributes: 5-8g protein, 14-22g sugar per serving
Organic, Pasture Raised
Flavors: Maple, Vanilla, Plain, Strawberry
Cost per ounce: $0.21
Wallaby Organic Lowfat Yogurt
Live Active Cultures Present: L. Acidophilus, L. Bulgaricus, S. Thermophilus, Bifidus, L. Paracasei
Attributes: 7g protein, 20-22g sugar per servingOrganicFlavors: Vanilla Bean, Peach, Blueberry, Banana, and LemonCost per ounce: $0.19
Live Active Cultures Present: L. Acidophilus, L. Bulgaricus, S. Thermophilus
Attributes: 5g protein, 10g sugar Contains artificial sweetenersFlavors: Harvest Peach, Banana Cream Pie, Strawberry, Very Cherry and moreCost per ounce: $0.11
What to Look for (and Avoid) When Buying Yogurt
If you're eating yogurt mainly for the probiotic benefits, make sure to look for The National Yogurt Association's Live & Active Cultures seal on packaging: It means that when manufactured, the yogurt contained at least 100 million active starter cultures per gram. Most yogurt brands in the United States contain probiotics, but the organisms must be added after heat processing, so check the label to be sure. If it states "live and active cultures," then the yogurt has probiotics.
Other important factors to consider are the amount of protein and sugar included. When it comes to protein, aim for a minimum of six grams of protein in non-dairy yogurt alternatives and at least 10 grams in regular dairy yogurt. More or less is okay but yogurt can be a great source of protein so it's helpful to pack it in when you can. Also be sure to read the nutrition facts panels for sugar content. Many of the flavored types can get out of hand when it comes to sugar cane, juices, and high-fructose corn syrup additions. There are many delicious yogurt options on the market with 15 grams of sugar or less.
The ingredients are important to consider too. When buying dairy-based yogurt, organic, grass-fed yogurt is best. Artificial sweeteners are aplenty in the yogurt aisle so if they bother you or they're something you try to avoid, make sure to read the labels. It's best to look for simple ingredient lists typically consisting of the "milk" base, fruit, sugar, pectin and live active cultures.
Other Foods Containing Probiotics
Yogurt has become the poster-child of probiotic foods but there are many other options available. Kimchi, miso, kefir, aged cheeses, kombucha, sauerkraut, tempeh, and fresh pickles are also great sources.
- Applied and Environmental Microbiology: Survival of Yogurt Bacteria in the Human Gut
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Iowa State University: Yogurt
- The efficacy of probiotics in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: a systematic review.
- The Pervasive Effects of an Antibiotic on the Human Gut Microbiota, as Revealed by Deep 16S rRNA Sequencing
- Effect of Probiotics on Central Nervous System Functions in Animals and Humans: A Systematic Review
- Effect of Lactobacillus rhamnosus CGMCC1.3724 supplementation on weight loss and maintenance in obese men and women.
- Probiotic foods: What to know