Should you add probiotics to your diet?
There’s been a buzz about them lately, but are they merely trendy—or a rich source of nutrients?
Probiotics are live bacteria that promote a healthy intestinal environment. There are many types, but the most common is lactobacillus.
Yogurt is probably the best-known probiotic food, and it’s made with lactobacillus bulgaricus and streptococcus thermophiles. When buying yogurt, though, look for the “live active culture” seal on the container—not all commercial yogurt has it.
What are the benefits of probiotics?
Eating probiotic foods can contribute to a healthy metabolism, development of a strong immune system and may promote resistance to active infection. Probiotics may be especially helpful to surgical patients and people taking antibiotics, which are situations that tend to destroy beneficial gut bacteria. They may also help ease the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and other intestinal conditions.
Besides yogurt, probiotic foods include:
• Acidophilus milk
• Kombucha (a fermented green or black tea)
• Miso soup
• Sauerkraut, pickles, kimchee and other fermented foods
The average person could benefit by eating one to two servings of probiotic foods daily. People with acute conditions could be helped by two to three servings daily. Such foods are a healthy addition to the typical Western diet, which tends to be low in fiber and heavy in saturated fats.
However, you have to look at your overall lifestyle because probiotic foods are only a part of what constitutes a healthy diet and lifestyle. Eating lots of fruit and vegetables, legumes, whole grains, healthy fats, and excercising are recommended in order to promote heatlh.
Concentrated probiotic supplements are also available over the counter, and taking them has been found to help during acute intestinal conditions.
In any case, check with your doctor before starting probiotic supplements to make sure they won’t interact with any of your medications.
We do know one thing: Probiotic foods like sauerkraut, miso soup and kimchee have been popular for years in cultures around the globe. It’s a great time for you to start enjoying them too.
This article was reviewed by Carilion Clinic's Registered Dietitians.