Interest in fermented foods/drinks and probiotics has surged over the past decade in response to studies linking them to improved digestive health1. In an attempt to help you answer patients’ questions, the next two issues of our blog will focus on this topic. Let us know if you find it helpful!

What are fermented foods and drinks?

Fermented foods and drinks include yogurt, kefir, hard cheeses, kimchi, kombucha, and beers2. These products are made through controlled microbial growth and enzymatic conversions, involving bacteria, yeasts, or molds2. Ingredients, temperature, and time are adjusted to achieve the desired product.

Are all fermented foods or drinks probiotics?

No, not all fermented foods and drinks are probiotics.

Probiotics are defined as “live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit to the host3.” While often associated with probiotics, fermented foods must meet strict criteria, including documented health benefits and thorough testing to be classified as probiotics1.

How can children benefit from consuming fermented foods and drinks? 

Most traditional fermented foods have not been extensively studied for digestive health benefits in children4. However, certain fermented foods, such as yogurt, are beneficial for children and have been demonstrated to enhance digestive health4. Yogurt is rich in nutrients, including bioavailable protein, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, vitamins A, B2, and B12, as well as essential fatty acids4. We recommend unsweetened yogurt.

Are there any risks associated from consuming fermented foods and drinks?

Fermentation is among the oldest techniques for food preservation. While commercially-prepared fermented foods and beverages are typically safe for consumption, it is essential to adhere to strict food safety guidelines when making them at home to reduce contamination risks5. Furthermore, some fermented drinks, like certain kombuchas, are unsuitable for children because of their alcohol content.

Next month, we will focus on products with added probiotics. Another useful resource on fermented foods, prebiotics and probiotics can be found here.

This issue was written by Justine Habibian, Ph.D., R.D.N.


  1. Vinderola G, Cotter PD, Freitas M, et al. Fermented foods: a perspective on their role in delivering biotics. Front Microbiol. 2023;14:1196239. doi:10.3389/FMICB.2023.1196239/BIBTEX


  1. Dimidi E, Cox SR, Rossi M, Whelan K. Fermented Foods: Definitions and Characteristics, Impact on the Gut Microbiota and Effects on Gastrointestinal Health and Disease. Nutrients. 2019;11(8). doi:10.3390/NU11081806


  1. Hill C, Guarner F, Reid G, et al. The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics consensus statement on the scope and appropriate use of the term probiotic. Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol 2014 118. 2014;11(8):506-514. doi:10.1038/nr


  1. Marco ML, Heeney D, Binda S, et al. Health benefits of fermented foods: microbiota and beyond. Curr Opin Biotechnol. 2017;44:94-102. doi:10.1016/j.copbio.2016.11.010


  1. Skowron K, Budzyńska A, Grudlewska-Buda K, et al. Two Faces of Fermented Foods—The Benefits and Threats of Its Consumption. Front Microbiol. 2022;13. doi:10.3389/FMICB.2022.845166

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