There’s no shortage of information about the benefits of probiotics and probiotic-rich foods, but what about your kids? Do they need probiotics too?
What Are The Benefits of Probiotics For Kids?
Probiotics are often marketed to parents as a way to prevent colds, the flu, diarrhea and constipation.
Studies show probiotics may also treat health conditions like colic, reflux, allergies, asthma and eczema. In fact, a February 2018 meta-analysis in the journal PLOS One suggests taking probiotics during late pregnancy and while breastfeeding may reduce a baby’s risk for the skin condition.
The buzz about probiotics comes down to one thing: gut health. The gut microbiome is a vast collection of approximately 100 trillion microbes, or microorganisms, that live on and in the body, but most are found in the gastrointestinal tract or simply, the gut.
One class of microbes are bacteria. The gut contains both harmful bacteria that lead to disease and helpful bacteria that strengthen the immune system and help kids stay healthy.
A course of antibiotics or eating a diet high in processed foods, sugar and refined grains can throw off the balance between healthy and harmful bacteria in their gut and leave your kids susceptible to illness.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that although probiotics are likely safe, it’s not clear how effective they are or what the long-term effects may be for kids. What’s more, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate the safety and effectiveness of dietary supplements, so if you do give your kids probiotics, you really don’t know what you’re giving them.
It’s always a good idea to check with your pediatrician first, but getting nutrients from food sources, including probiotics, is always better than a supplement.
These 9 probiotic-rich foods (some are dairy-free) are healthy and delicious and will give your kids a dose of gut healthy, immune boosting bacteria.
Kefir tastes a bit tangy and with a thicker consistency than milk but not quite as thick as yogurt, kefir can be served alone or mixed with fruit for a healthy breakfast smoothie.
Since most brands of kefir are sweetened and high in sugar, read labels carefully. Your best bet will likely be plain, unsweetened kefir which you can add your own fresh fruit to for more fiber and sweetness.
2. Green Peas
Green peas are an excellent source of fiber, protein and vitamins A, C, B6, and K, magnesium and folate.
Surprisingly, they’re also probiotic-rich. In fact, a December 2018 study in the Journal of Applied Microbiology found that a particular strain—leuconostoc mesenteroides subsp. mesenteroides—can boost gut health. The study was conducted in mice however, so it’s not clear if the same findings can be replicated in humans.
3. Sourdough bread
Sourdough bread is made with a fermentation process that uses wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria that’s naturally present, making it a good source of probiotics.
Your kids may not immediately take to the taste of sourdough bread so serve a small piece with a pat of grass-fed butter, which has a dose of probiotics too.
A March 2018 study in the journal Clinical and Experimental Allergy found that babies who ate yogurt on a daily basis reduced their risk for allergies and eczema by up to 70 percent. The authors note however, that it’s unclear what type of yogurt and how much is actually beneficial.
Experts I’ve interviewed say most store-bought yogurts don’t contain enough probiotics by the time you purchase them. The nurse practitioner in my children’s pediatrician’s office recommended they try Activia, so that’s what we buy.
5. Fermented Pickles
Most kids love pickles, but most pickles on store shelves won’t cut it.
To get the benefits of probiotics, you’ll want to look for pickles in the refrigerated section and those brands that are labeled “naturally fermented,” like Bubbies.
A popular Asian side dish, kimchi is a naturally fermented cabbage that contains probiotics and is rich in vitamins A, C, K, B6, folate and iron.
Since kimchi is a bit spicy, give your kids a small amount and see if they like it.
Sauerkraut, another type of fermented cabbage, is a good source of probiotics as well as fiber, calcium and magnesium, vitamins B6, C and K, folate, iron and potassium.
Most store-brands of sauerkraut don’t contain probiotics however, so look for those that state they’re naturally fermented.
A traditional Japanese condiment that’s made from fermented rye, beans, rice or barley, miso is one of the probiotic-rich foods. A good way to introduce miso to kids is to offer miso soup since it has a mild flavor and is quite delicious.
9. Coconut milk yogurt
If your kids can’t consume dairy or your family is dairy-free, coconut milk yogurt is one of the best probiotic-rich foods.
Like many types of yogurt however, coconut milk yogurt can be high in sugar so read labels carefully. Or find plain, unsweetened versions and add fresh berries for added fiber and a hint of sweetness.