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Probiotics positively impact many parts of our bodies, from our skin and hair right down to our gut—the latter, however, is the key player. “When the gut isn’t functioning optimally, the skin is often the first place to show these effects,” explains Kimberly Snyder, a celebrity nutritionist, holistic wellness expert, and founder of Solluna by Kimberly Snyder. And when this happens, we absorb fewer nutrients, which implicates skin and hair health, as well as a slew of other systems. Luckily, poor gut health can be fixed by a probiotic-rich diet. “Probiotics have the proven ability to regulate hormones and metabolics, strengthen the immune system, and support detoxification—all of which contribute to overall health and more optimal functioning throughout the body. This results in healthier cells, including in your hair and skin,” adds Snyder.
While taking a supplement can help, the easiest way to boost your probiotic intake is to add foods that are incredibly rich in them into your diet. Here, the foods with the highest probiotic levels, according to our experts.
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“Miso is a Japanese flavoring made from fermented soybeans. It’s not only a good source of probiotics, but it adds a wonderful umami, or savory, flavor to meals too,” notes Sheri Vettel, a registered dietician at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.
Select foods that are “fermented, because they contain live microorganisms or bacteria which can be classed as probiotic—these are things like yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, and unpasteurized soft cheese,” explains Jules Miller, founder and CEO of The Nue Co. To gain any bacterial benefits from fermented foods, you need to ensure you’re eating the least interfered with version, she explains—so if you’re stocking up on yogurt, make sure yours has no added sugar.
Raw Apple Cider Vinegar
Raw apple cider vinegar “contains healthy bacteria and naturally-occurring enzymes that support digestion and gut health—and makes a great seasoning for salads,” explains Snyder.
“Cottage cheese is a protein powerhouse—a half-cut cup serving of it contains 12 grams of protein,” explains Katrina Trisko, a registered dietitian based in New York City. It’s a great snack, she notes, since it pairs well with sweet and salty foods; enjoy it with a piece of fruit or sliced vegetables. “The only downside is that it often contains very high amounts of salt, so for those who need to monitor their sodium intake, opt for a low sodium version or keep the portion size to half-a-cup or less.”
Tempeh is also made from fermented soybeans and is a probiotic and protein-rich meat substitute for a variety of dishes, says Vettel. “Soybeans are typically high in phytic acid, a compound that can decrease mineral absorption by the body. Because tempeh is fermented, phytic acid levels are lowered, and the minerals in the soybeans such as iron are more easily absorbed in the gut,” she adds.
“Kombucha is a drinkable probiotic treat, but it can contain a lot of sugar, so I suggest enjoying it in moderation,” notes Snyder.