Fer­ment­ing Ul­ti­mate Cham­pi­onship

We put a va­ri­ety of store­bought fer­mented foods into the ring (ac­tu­ally, the lab) to bat­tle it out for the ti­tle of the most po­tent pro­bi­otic. When we fight here at CE, we fight for what truly mat­ters.


We know fer­mented foods are good for us

— they con­tain ben­e­fi­cial bac­te­ria that help support your mi­cro­biome, the col­lec­tion of bac­te­ria, yeast, viruses and fungi that live in your gut and on your skin. Your mi­cro­biome im­pacts your health fun­da­men­tally, af­fect­ing di­ges­tion, immunity, weight and men­tal health.

But, with all the fer­mented foods on the mar­ket claim­ing they con­tain live bac­te­rial cul­tures, it’s hard to know which are worth the spend and which are worth a pass. This month, we stepped out of the kitchen and into the lab to test a va­ri­ety of store-bought fer­mented foods — and we’re show­ing you how they mea­sure up.

We reached out to Bren­dan Chap­man, PhD, a pro­fes­sor in the depart­ment of Food Sci­ence Tech­nol­ogy at Centennial Col­lege in Toronto. We tested six cat­e­gories of store-bought prod­ucts – ke­fir, yo­gurt, miso, sauer­kraut, kim­chi and kom­bucha — and three dif­fer­ent brands of each. Thanks to Dr. Chap­man and his as­sis­tants Ra­jwinder Gurm and Ruchi Sharma who tire­lessly mea­sured sam­ples, la­beled petri dishes and counted colonies for us, we were able to rate them from the most po­tent pro­bi­otic to the weak­est in our very own Ul­ti­mate Fer­ment­ing Cham­pi­onship (the nu­tri­tion geeks’ UFC).

The win­ner? Ke­fir,

and by a long shot. It clocked in sig­nif­i­cantly higher than the rest with a whop­ping 27.7 bil­lion CFU per 1 cup serv­ing. Other heavy­weights are yo­gurt and kim­chi at 3.6 bil­lion CFU per 1 cup serv­ing and 2.6 bil­lion CFU per ½ cup serv­ing, re­spec­tively.

SAUER­KRAUT KOM­BUCHA MISO KE­FIR 27.7 bil­lion CFU per 1 cup serv­ing YO­GURT CFU = COLONY FORM­ING UNITS KIM­CHI 2.6 bil­lion CFU per 1∕2 cup serv­ing 3.6 bil­lion CFU per 1 cup serv­ing 54.1 thou­sand CFU per 1 tbsp serv­ing 195.2 mil­lion CFU per 1∕2 cup serv­ing...

(Left) Dr. Chap­man shows Ex­ec­u­tive Ed­i­tor An­drea Gourgy how the pro­bi­otic mix­tures are ho­mog­e­nized. (Right) Dr. Chap­man places the mix­tures into test tubes for anal­y­sis.

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