Just beyond the fancy waters and pressed juices in your grocery store, there's another type of bottled beverage that could be worth your pennies: probiotic drinks. You've probably heard of probiotic supplements before, and probiotic drinks contain live and active cultures that do basically the same thing. They can be fizzy fermented teas like kombucha, milky yogurts like kefir, or sparkling flavored waters. Some people love the way they taste, but do you need them? Not necessarily, says Vanessa Rissetto, MS, RD, CDN.
Right after birth, your gastrointestinal tract is colonized by a lot of different bacteria, and everyone has their own personal blend that fluctuates over time, Rissetto says. Probiotics are "good" bacteria that could help balance the bacteria in your gut. They can be helpful for people with GI problems (like IBS or lactose intolerance), but more research needs to be done on the amounts that work best on healthy people, because there's so much variation from person to person, says Amanda Kruse, RD, CD.
You can get your probiotics through supplements, foods, or drinks, but most experts agree that real foods and drinks are the best, because your stomach acid can kill supplements before they get to your intestines where the real work happens, Rissetto says. Probiotic foods are also delicious (kimchi and sauerkraut, hello?) and cheaper than a bottle of probiotic pills. If you like the taste, sipping on a probiotic drink can be enough to reap the benefits, but they're not a cure-all magic elixir, says Marci Evans, MS, RD. Here's what you need to know about probiotic drinks and how to find and buy the best ones.