Known collectively as the microbiome, trillions of microbes of thousands of different species live in the body, especially in the gut. “The microbiome plays an important role in functions such as digestion, the immune system, and vitamin synthesis,” says Marisa Moore, M.B.A., R.D.N., L.D., culinary and integrative dietician in Atlanta, Georgia. “Our microbiome is constantly changing, and researchers seem to agree that diversity of these microbes is a good thing for our overall health.”
Most of the time, this community of bacteria, fungi, parasites and viruses, coexist peacefully. But illness, diet or medications may cause a disturbance in the microbiome, which may make you more susceptible to disease. Some research shows that probiotics may help restore balance between the good and bad bugs.
One of the best ways to ensure you’re getting different beneficial microbes is by aiming for variety in your diet, says Moore. Probiotic foods, which contain beneficial live microbes, are abundant in foods such as yogurt, kimchi, kefir, pickled vegetables, tempeh, kombucha tea, miso and sauerkraut. Prebiotic foods, which are plant fibers that feed gut bacteria, also are important because they’re the “food source” for the good bacteria. You’ll find them in foods such as bananas, onion, garlic, asparagus, and whole grains such as wheat, oats, and barley.
But if you’re on-the-go and not the best about eating right every day, you may be able to increase the amount of good microbes in your body with probiotic supplements or beverages. Look for the words “live active cultures” on the label, as well as for a variety of probiotic strains such as Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Saccharomyces boulardii. If you need to avoid dairy, there are many non-dairy options available, too. Compare nutrition facts, serving size, and cost to find one that suits your needs. Also, be aware that the FDA does not regulate probiotics or approve any health claims. But if you’re healthy, there’s generally no harm in trying these drinks.
Ahead, our top picks for the best probiotic drinks:
This kefir contains 110 calories and 11 grams of protein per cup with live active cultures. With no artificial flavors, preservatives or sweeteners, it's a healthy choice, and it’s budget-priced, too, containing four servings per 32-ounce container. It comes in several flavors including plain, raspberry, and blueberry.
If you’re looking for something lighter and fizzier with a little ginger kick, this probiotic drink contains live probiotics and stevia plant extract instead of artificial sweeteners. It’s available in just about every flavor you can imagine including lemon, blueberry and pineapple.
This budget-friendly option comes in several different flavors including mixed berries, mango, and peach. It contains no artificial flavors or sweeteners and has just 140 calories with 10 grams of protein and live and active cultures. The single-serve portions make it easy to grab and go as a mid-morning or an afternoon snack.
If you just don’t like the texture of drinkable yogurts, this juice beverage has live probiotics and real juice as sweetener. It’s a refreshing break from plain, old water, at only 60 calories.
This super-popular kombucha, launched more than 25 years ago, contains just tea, juice, and yeast, and comes in 40 different flavors. It’s a great option if you need to avoid dairy but still want a quick probiotic boost.
If you’re trying to wean yourself off sugary soda, this beverage contains real juice, herbs, and water as well as billions of live probiotics. At just 40 calories, you won’t feel bad about indulging. Five different varieties include grapefruit, orange mango, watermelon lime, wild berry, and ginger lemon.
If you’re looking for a dairy-free alternative, this vegan-friendly beverage contains live active cultures, cashew milk, and cane sugar with no artificial ingredients. It’s available in plain or four flavors including blueberry, strawberry, mango and blackberry.
If you want the potential benefits of probiotics but don’t like yogurt-style drinks or kombucha, this 3-ounce “shot” contains live active cultures for just 30 calories. There’s no sugar added, and it’s vegan-friendly.
If you’ve vowed to give up sodas but get a craving now and again, this prebiotic beverage offers a sweet sip for 50 calories and 2 grams of sugar. It also contains no artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors or preservatives. Reviewers rave about how much it tastes like the real deal but without all the sugar.
Containing prebiotics and probiotics, this Greek yogurt drink also boasts 25 grams of protein so you’ll feel full longer. It’s a thicker consistency than some drinks, and it’s available in several flavors including mixed berry vanilla and strawberry cream. It’s sweetened by monk fruit and stevia and contains 190 calories per 10-ounce bottle.
This popular brand, made in Australia, contains live active cultures and all organic ingredients with no sugar. It comes in fun flavors such as raspberry lemonade, peach, cherry plum and ginger lemon. At just 7 calories, it’s a refreshing almost no-calorie way to imbibe probiotics if you’re not a big fan of yogurt-based drinks.
This fizzy probiotic drink contains plant-based sweeteners and is only 10 calories with zero sugar. It’s a little on the expensive side, but it’s available in four crowd-favorite flavors including peach tea, ginger lemonade, raspberry lemonade, and blood orange.
This kombucha is USDA certified organic, made from loose leaf teas, botanicals and fruits and juices. The Island mango flavor features the bright tropical flavors of mango, passionfruit, and ginger. It’s only 80 calories and is made by a company that’s a carbon neutral Certified B corporation and a 1% for the Planet member.
This grass-fed organic kefir has a creamy, naturally sweet texture. It contains no hormones and no artificial anything. Because it’s made from whole milk, it tastes richer and contains 180 calories and 9 grams of protein for an 8-ounce serving.
For a refreshing sip, this flavored water contains both probiotics and vitamins such as A, C, and B. The patented push cap allows you to mix in the active ingredients right before use, as opposed to being premixed, which the company says allows ingredients to maintain potency. The 12 pack includes berry cherry, strawberry lemonade, blueberry lemonade, kiwi melon, and tropical coconut flavors.