If you browse the supermarket for healthy food options, you likely spotted the yogurt options boasting probiotic additives. Yogurt is of course seen as a beneficial food in many nutritional circles, but depending on your diet, yogurt might be outside of what you typically eat. If you’re interested in taking probiotics for the health benefits, it pays to know the other sources in order to get your daily recommended dose. What are Probiotics Anyway? Probiotics are helpful microorganisms such as bacteria and yeast that are believed to provide a significant health benefit, mainly in the area of digestive health. For years, researchers have believed that digestive disorders result when there is an imbalance in the natural microorganisms within our intestines. This can occur with an overload of yeast, when the
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lining of the intestines are damaged, or from taking antibiotics that kill off the “good” bacteria. Probiotics are believe to correct the issue. “Probiotics can improve intestinal function and maintain the integrity of the lining of the intestines,” says Stefano Guandalini, MD, professor of pediatrics and gastroenterology at the University of Chicago Medical Center. “These friendly bugs may also help fight off diarrhea-causing organisms.” Probiotics Can Boost Natural Immune System Function There has also been evidence through controlled research that probiotics can help us maintain a stronger immune system. “In societies with very good hygiene, we’ve seen a sharp
increase in autoimmune and allergic diseases,” stated Guandalini. “That may be because the immune system isn’t being properly challenged by pathogenic organisms. Introducing friendly bacteria in the form of probiotics is believed to challenge the immune system in healthy ways.” But are probiotics completely safe? There is some belief that people with severely weakened immune systems should avoid taking probiotic enriched foods and supplements because of the risk of introducing additional bacteria. Aside from those concerns “People in cultures around the world have been eating yogurt, cheeses, and other foods containing live cultures for centuries,” says Martin Floch, MD, a professor of gastroenterology at Yale University and co-author of Probiotics: A Clinical Guide. Finding the Right Sources of Probiotics Probiotics are readily available through a variety of dairy foods, but what about vegetarian sources of probiotics? Besides Lactobacillus acidophilus common in dairy and beneficial to our digestion, there are other probiotic bacteria that can contribute to good health: • Lactobacillus bulgaricus • Lactobacillus GG • Certain varieties of Bifidobacteria • Lactobacillus rhamnosus • Lactobacillus case • Lactobacillus johnsonii • B. infantis • Lactobacillus plantarum • Bifidobacterium animalis • Bacillus coagulans • Bifidobacterium longum • Lactobacillus casei • Lactococcus lactis You won’t readily find these on a shelf though, and they’re not something you will typically find in the ingredients list of foods at the local market. If you want to skirt the yogurt and dairy, here are some alternative sources of probiotics: Tempeh – Tempeh is a soy product that has been fermented, and has a texture that is similar to meat; somewhat chewy. Unlike Tofu, tempeh is made using whole soybeans. During the fermentation process,, beneficial molds form and bind the soy together. It’s a common ingredient in a variety of soy dishes and aside from being a source of probiotic, it offers high quality protein and is an excellent source of vitamin B12. Miso – Miso is a popular Japanese seasoning produced through the process of fermented a variety of beans or grains. It’s commonly used in soups and sauces as well as spreads. You’ll find variations of miso depending on the bean or grain used which alters the flavor and color. Sauerkraut – Sauerkraut is a great source of probiotic, and is nothing more than fermented or pickled cabbage. This is made from fresh cabbage that is cut and allowed to ferment in brine. Supplements – There are a number of supplements available on the market that provides beneficial bacteria for your diet. While supplements are sometimes deemed lower in quality than natural probiotics in foods, they are a great way to make sure you get your regular dose during variations in your meal plan – that way you’re not eating tempeh and sauerkraut five times a week.