Are There Probiotics in Sour Cream?

Probiotics are live microorganisms with possible digestive health benefits. Probiotics are found in fermented dairy products such as sour cream and yogurt, or can also be purchased over-the-counter and added to foods as a supplement. Not all sour cream varieties contain probiotics -- look for a label that says "contains active cultures."

Close-up of a baked potato topped with sour cream.
Credit: George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Probiotics Defined

Probiotics are live microorganisms that include dairy cultures, enzymes and bacteria. Your body naturally hosts billions of bacteria that support digestion and absorption of multiple nutrients. They also help your immune system by creating a competitive environment that makes it harder for foreign bacteria to survive and reproduce. Consuming probiotics adds even more support to these digestive "good guys."

Probiotic Content of Sour Cream

Not all sour cream varieties contain probiotics, although it is a fermented dairy product. Manufacturers commonly use Lactobacillus lactus (L. lactus) or B. bifidus to make sour cream. These bacteria can die off during processing. Some manufacturers, such as Horizon Organic, add live cultures to each batch of sour cream toward the end of the batch processing, which continue to be active during transit and all the way into your refrigerator.

Identifying Probiotic-Rich Foods

It is easy to identify probiotic-rich foods such as yogurt. Manufacturers label foods containing live microorganisms for food safety reasons and, recently, for health marketing purposes. Many companies will specify the exact type of bacteria on the front label. Although bacteria is used to make many popular foods such as cheese, chocolate and wine, these foods do not contain live microorganisms and do not need to be labeled as such.

Making Sour Cream

Sour cream is made by mixing cream with a sour milk such as buttermilk and letting it sit at room temperature for up to 24 hours. The sour milk contains bacteria that work through the cream, thus creating a uniformly thick mixture. Heating the sour cream to a high temperature for pasteurization kills off the bacteria; heating the sour cream to a lower temperature will preserve some of the microorganisms.

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