Five Surprising Sources of Natural Probiotics

Our bodies are designed to have lots of “good” bacteria that protect us from harmful pathogens, keep other naturally-occurring organisms (like yeast) in check, promote our immune system health and help digest our food.  These “good” bacteria are often called “probiotics,” which is Latin for “promoting life.”

But certain things cause the level of “good” bacteria to drop -- like taking a course of oral antibiotics, eating too much sugar or not eating enough fiber.  

While there are lots of companies that make probiotic supplements, there are lots of natural sources that offer a delicious, nutritious way to get the probiotics your body needs to stay in balance.

In addition to supporting the body’s natural functions, probiotics have been shown to help with medical conditions like diarrhea, constipation, pediatric abdominal pain and obesity.  Ongoing studies are also assessing whether probiotics help with other conditions, like diabetes, high cholesterol, respiratory tract infections and eczema.

You probably already know that yogurt is a great source of live active cultures.  Here are five other surprising sources of probiotics you can include in your diet to make sure your body is as healthy as possible!

1. Miso

           Miso, a paste made from fermented soybeans, originated in Japanese cooking.  Not only does miso contain probiotics, but it also contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein!  Miso is famous for being the main ingredient in miso soup. But it can also be used in salad dressings, marinades, stir-fries...or spread on toast.

2. Sauerkraut and Kimchi

           Sauerkraut and kimchi are two forms of fermented cabbage.  They contain probiotics, and they’re also low in calories and fat.  Sauerkraut, a mildly tangy fermented cabbage, is often found in German cooking.  Kimchi, a spicy fermented cabbage, is most commonly found in Korean food. Whether you put fermented cabbage on a sandwich, in casserole, or eat it on its own, the probiotics will give your body’s good bacteria a healthy boost.  

3. Kombucha

           Kombucha is a slightly effervescent (sparkling) drink made from fermented black or green tea.  You can brew it at home, or buy it at your favorite grocery store. Some restaurants even have kombucha on tap!   This healthy beverage is often flavored with lavender, melon, ginger, berries or lemon, making it an especially delicious source of probiotics.

4. Dark Chocolate

            Chocolate lovers of the world, rejoice!  Eating two ounces of dark chocolate every day is a great way to get a boost of probiotics!  In addition to containing probiotics, dark chocolate contains flavonoids (which lower your blood pressure), endorphins (which boost your mood), and theobromine (which strengthens your tooth enamel).  Just make sure you’re eating chocolate with at least 70% cacao/cocoa to get the maximum benefit.

5. Apple Cider Vinegar

            Apple cider vinegar is made from fermented apple juice. Natural bacteria accumulates during the fermentation process, so drinking a few tablespoons of vinegar a day is a great source of probiotics!  Apple cider vinegar has also been shown to regulate blood pressure, improve insulin sensitivity and prevent over-eating when it’s taken before a meal. Make sure you get unpasteurized/raw vinegar (it’ll look cloudy with visible particles in it) to get the maximum health benefits, since pasteurized vinegar doesn’t contain any probiotics.


We’re lucky to have local, quality sources of natural probiotics here in the Bay Area!

Rainbow Grocery Co-Op has twenty varieties of kimchi, including habanero-tumeric and spicy napa cabbage.   

Dandelion Chocolate, in San Francisco’s Mission District, offers high-quality chocolates.  You can order yours online, or stop in for a tasting and a tour!

Lev’s Original Kombucha, brewed right here in the Bay Area, is a delicious source of probiotics. You can find bottles of Lev’s kombucha in many stores, or stop by The Market, where they have Lev’s Original Kombucha on tap!

At Golden Gate Urgent Care, we work seven days a week to help our patients feel as happy and healthy as possible!  Schedule an appointment online or just walk-in to any of our six Bay Area locations to get the care you need.

Sarah Thebarge MMSc, PA-C Sarah Thebarge earned her physician assistant degree at Yale School of Medicine, and then studied journalism at Columbia School of Journalism. She has been a physician assistant and a freelance journalist since 2004. In addition to caring for patients at Golden Gate Urgent Care, Sarah frequently volunteers her medical skills in the developing world. Her writing has appeared in Huffington Post, USA Today and National Geographic, and her blog was featured on She is the author of the memoir The Invisible Girls and the upcoming book WELL: Healing our Beautiful, Broken World from a Hospital in West Africa. She currently lives in the Mission District of San Francisco.

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