Fermentation was used historically as a food preservation process where sugars are broken down by bacteria and yeasts. As such, fermented foods are a great source of probiotics because they contain live bacteria. Pickling is another food preservation process, that uses an acid such as vinegar or a brine (salty water) to preserve the food. ONLY pickles fermented with salt, not vinegar, contain probiotics. You will likely find the truly fermented foods in the refrigerated section rather than on the shelves.
Through the process of fermentation of dairy products, the bacteria help break down the lactose (a sugar) making fermented dairy foods such as kefir, yogurt, and cottage cheese (be sure to choose the fermented with active cultures!) acceptable for individuals with lactose intolerance.
Try incorporating at least one serving of one or more of the fermented foods below in your diet regularly to support your gut health. When cooking with fermented foods, add them as a topping or mix them in at the end to avoid killing the beneficial probiotics with high heat.
Top Fermented Foods
Thank you to the team at UMass Medical School for this insightful article.