Yogurt commercials often tout the benefits of probiotics, but it's hard to dive into the details of these live microorganisms in a thirty-second television clip, so you may be left with more questions than answers.
From clarifying what foods contain probiotics to determining the difference between prebiotics and probiotics, we will attempt to demystify these beneficial bacteria below.
As with any diet change, please consult your doctor before incorporating probiotics into your meal plan.
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that benefit the digestive system. According to the Cleveland Clinic, these "good" microorganisms help to digest food, destroy disease-causing microorganisms, and produce vitamins. Probiotics also replace the body's "good" bacteria, which may be lost when taking antibiotics. They can also produce substances that hinder the growth of "bad" bacteria and restore the body's balance of "good" and "bad" bacteria.
Probiotics are found naturally in the body. People who want to treat constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, acid reflux, or a number of other conditions may consider taking probiotic supplements or eat foods high in probiotics.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) states that a great deal of research has been done on probiotics. They have shown promising results for preventing antibiotic-associated diarrhea, treatment of periodontal disease, and induction or maintenance of remission in ulcerative colitis. Probiotics are also natural immune boosters, according to Harvard Medical School.
What Foods Contain Probiotics?
While yogurt may be the first food that most people associate with probiotics, the Cleveland Clinic notes that there are several other foods known to have these "good" bacteria, including:
- Some juices
- Soy drinks
- Some soft cheeses
As the NIH explains, there are some unanswered questions surrounding probiotics—including which probiotics are the most helpful, how much should an individual take, and what type of person is most likely to benefit from taking probiotic supplements. A supplemental dosage of probiotics for adults can range from five billion to ten billion colony-forming units, according to Harvard Medical School. Please consult with your doctor to determine the proper dosage for you.
Probiotics vs. Prebiotics
The Mayo Clinic explains that, while probiotics contain live microorganisms to maintain or improve the "good" bacteria in the body, prebiotics act as food for human microflora. They are typically found in high-fiber foods and help to improve the balance of microorganisms.
In short, probiotics add additional "good" bacteria to your gut, and prebiotics feed the "good" bacteria that already exist in your body.
What are your favorite ways to incorporate probiotic foods into your wellness plan? Check out recipes for healthy, balanced eating on the Smart Snacking board by @tomsofmaine on Pinterest!
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Why It's Good
Probiotics—found naturally in some foods and taken as supplements—provide the body with "good" bacteria that encourage healthy digestion, among other benefits.