Snacking on chips and gummies is obviously unhealthy, but when that craving hits, they’re hard to resist. At least we can reach for munchies that align with our taste buds and, to some degree, our well-being. Suddenly, functional (aka functionality, thanks to a boost of hyper-nutritious ingredients) treats are everywhere: You can find almonds dusted with adaptogenic mushrooms, spirulina-sprinkled brussels sprout chips, and sunflower and chia seed tortilla chips at nearly every corner store.
And one type of bite-size treat could actually be good for you. From sodas to ice cream to chocolate, probiotic and prebiotic snacks have moved well beyond yogurt but still feed gut flora and contain healthy bacteria and fiber.
The growing awareness around digestive health is rapidly rising, so much so that purchases of probiotic-related foods and supplements are expected to reach $69.3 billion by 2023. No wonder companies are offering items that support gut health while also tasting delicious. But are they actually a good way to take your probiotics?
We looked at the numbers—specifically the CFUs (colony forming units). “It’s a number that helps determine how potent the probiotic is,” says Whitney Tingle, cofounder of Sakara Life. “When it comes to a daily supplement, look for something at least in the billions.” That billion-plus mark is available in almost all the quality probiotic snacks, below. Still, it’s best to think of these treats as more of a gut-friendly boost rather than the sole provider of your daily probiotic needs, since they won’t have a complex enough diversity of bacteria strains to satisfy your microbiome entirely.
If cravings strike, go for something with a bacteria-friendly secret, like one of these five treats.
If you’re craving chocolate…
Fun fact: A lot of probiotics on shelves (the unrefrigerated ones) are not stable, meaning the bacteria is already ineffective or DOA. Make sure you get a shelved product that is purposefully listed as “shelf-stable,” like this chocolate, which is made with unrefined coconut sugar. These tasty bites contain 10 billion CFUs, as well as prebiotic fiber, in the form of yacon root, to ensure that you’re both creating and sustaining a good balance of microflora.
If you’re craving ice cream…
Each pint of ice cream contains 3 billion CFUs, and the bacteria is specifically created from the bacteria’s spore state so they can withstand the harsh conditions of the freezer and still remain alive. That said, the blend does have 17 grams of sugar, which Tingle cautions against consuming in excessive amounts. “Unsurprisingly, refined sugar won’t help your gut,” she says. So if you want ice cream, at least this one has that added bacteria boost.
If you’re craving a soda…
This new wellness soda brand is focused on ingredients that provide prebiotics and fiber to your microflora. The fiber and prebiotics—which feed the probiotics in your gut, thus making the good bacteria much happier and healthier—come from a blend of gut-approved super-ingredients, like chicory, cassava, and kudzu roots, and also sunchoke, nopal cactus, and stevia. For the Cinnamon Cola flavor, the nopal cactus and cinnamon act as a blood sugar regulator, while the indulgent caramel and vanilla flavor is positively delightful.
If you’re craving something refreshing…
The runner-up in our coconut water blind taste test, Harmless Harvest is deliciously refreshing. For its probiotic blend, it added an impressive 10 billion CFUs to its young Thai coconut water, and that’s it—no stabilizers or fillers. Craving something a bit more fruity? Try the strawberry, blueberry, or mango flavors.
If you’re craving something salty…
Chock-full of 2 billion CFUs, thanks to the plant-based, bacteria-filled superfood sauerkraut. Yes, sauerkraut. The tangy kraut is organically made in California, blended with masa (aka corn) and made into chips for an unusual flavor (and digestive support) take on tortilla chips. If you love the flavor of kraut, these are the chips for you. They also come in dill pickle, jalapeño, and white Cheddar if kraut isn’t your favorite but you still want the probiotic boost.
If you’re going to snack, bite into something that will make your microbiome happy, too. After all, a happy gut makes for a happy mind.
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