You may have heard the term ‘probiotics’ as a recent buzz word that has resurfaced in the health world – but rarely does anyone explain what they are or what they actually do for you. Here’s a quick snapshot of everything you need to know about probiotics, plus how you can find them and incorporate them into your diet!
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are considered to be live microorganisms that are found naturally or added to certain foods and in supplements. When consumed in sufficient amounts, probiotics can have health benefits. They do this by improving the balance of good and bad bacteria that live in our large intestines. This helps with your digestive system and boosts your body’s natural immunity.
Why should I consider probiotic foods in my diet?
Incorporating probiotics into our diets can actually help with many specific health issues. Common reasons for making probiotics a part of your diet include:
- Managing the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS);
- Managing inflammatory bowel disease (IBD);
- Treating infectious or antibiotic-related diarrhea;
- Aiding in digestion of lactose or dairy;
- Improving overall health.
What are some sources of probiotics?
Probiotics are typically added to foods such as:
- Yogurt, cheese and milk beverages (such as kefir)
- Probiotic supplements*
You can also find some foods that are probiotic-rich naturally, including:
Try this kefir overnight oats recipe as a great way to get some more probiotics into your diet!
Probiotics and “Live Bacterial Cultures”
With yogurt in particular, make sure to read your labels carefully. The term “Live Bacterial Cultures” can be deceptive, as all yogurts use live bacterial cultures to ferment milk to turn it into yogurt. However, after this process, there is no guarantee that the cultures are present in significant enough amounts. Probiotics are usually added back into the product, but not all yogurts do this!
When selecting yogurt or dairy, look for a note that states a minimum level of 1.0 x 109 cfu (colony forming units) of one or more probiotic strains per serving (at the end of the product’s shelf life). This will ensure you are getting the full probiotic benefits from your yogurt.
What about probiotic supplements?
*Probiotic supplements can be a great option for people who are suffering from extreme digestive discomfort. Ask your dietitian for more information on which probiotic would be the best fit for you!