Probiotics: The Good Bacteria

by in Healthy Tips, January 26, 2009

“Probiotic” — seems like that word pops up more and more in the dairy aisle these days. Many foods are sporting probiotic labels and promising digestive bliss, but does this bacteria deserve all the hype? Here are the basics.

What Are Probiotics?
These are live microorganisms that help keep your digestive system in working order. Your digestive tract is teeming with bacteria — the good guys help breakdown food, while the bad guys can cause illness. Since only a certain amount of bacteria occupies your digestive tract at one time, eating probiotics helps outnumber unhealthy bacteria. Keeping a balance of good regulates digestion and may also benefit the immune system.

Sources of Probiotics
Probiotics are in yogurt, some cheeses and fermented dairy products such as kefir, a cultured milk beverage that tastes similar to yogurt, only thinner.

When probiotic browsing, check labels for the two most common ones: Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. On an ingredient list, these are usually abbreviated as “L.” or “B.” followed by the specific species name (examples: L. acidophilus, L. casei, B. bifidum and B. Longum). Don’t worry about looking for special packaging or paying a premium; most yogurt products contain these types of good bacteria. Probiotics are also in non-dairy foods — soy products such as miso and tempeh. Some snack foods — granola bars, for example — have them added.

Supplements are also available in capsule and powder forms. Folks often take probiotic pills to help alleviate an upset stomach while traveling. And if you’re on antibiotics, you may want to take in some extra probiotics (from food or supplements); antibiotic medications zap all the bacteria in your body — healthy and unhealthy. But remember, before taking any supplements while on medication (or anytime really), check with your doctor.

Ways to Enjoy Them
If you’re worried about it affecting your diet, no need. Foods with probiotics tend to be whole foods that are loaded with nutrients. Nonfat or low-fat yogurt is an easy snack; you can also add it to salad dressings or beverages. Try a mango lassi to cool off a spicy meal or add yogurt to a flavorful meat marinade. Kefir gives smoothies creaminess and tang.

For more on the science and specifics of probiotics, check out the National Institutes of Health.

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Comments (27)

  1. Sandra Phillips says:

    Thanks for the healthy info! Where do you find miso soup, or Miso, whatever that is? also, where do you purchase the Kefir starter culture?

  2. Dana White says:

    Miso paste is the main ingredient in miso soup. You can also add it to sauces and marinades – I like to put some in homemade salad dressings. Look for miso paste at large grocery stores or Asian markets, it will be in the refrigerated section.

  3. Joyce Barnes says:

    If anyone out there has Crohn’s disease, try probiotics{everyday}I feel they have saved my life. I have a life now and before, I felt like I didn’t. Give it a try. God Bless.

  4. Joyce hemming says:

    Joyce Barnes Please contact me asap regarding Crohns disease

  5. Krikri says:

    Very good post. Organic living has been one of the several topics about health. Many people have been concerned with healthy eating and have found probiotics to keep the body healthy. Probiotics are being used as as dietary supplements.

  6. Susan says:

    My understanding is that many yogurts are made using a probiotic but then it is killed during the final processing. The ones that have processed it in a way that preserves the probiotic should have a symbol on the package… it has the letters LAC inside of a little rectangle and mine also has the words Live and Active Cultures written next to it. I do have a question….If you cook miso or yogurt into dishes that are hot, does that kill the culture?

  7. danawhite says:

    Hi Susan
    Great question – yes, heat will destroy most (if not all of ) the bacteria in yogurt and miso – so it's best to get your probiotics from chilled yogurt and other cultured milk products like kefir.

  8. I think everything said was very logical. But, think about this, what if you added a little information? I am not suggesting your content isn’t solid, but suppose you added a title that grabbed folk’s attention? I mean Probiotics: The Good Bacteria | Healthy Eats – Food Network Healthy Living Blog is kinda vanilla. You might look at Yahoo’s front page and note how they write article titles to grab people to open the links. You might add a related video or a picture or two to get readers excited about what you’ve got to say. Just my opinion, it would make your website a little bit more interesting.

  9. I hardly comment, but i did a few searching and wound up here Probiotics: The Good Bacteria | Healthy Eats – Food Network Healthy Living Blog. And I do have a couple of questions for you if it’s allright. Is it simply me or does it seem like some of the comments appear as if they are written by brain dead people? :-P And, if you are writing at additional online sites, I’d like to keep up with anything new you have to post. Could you make a list of all of your social pages like your twitter feed, Facebook page or linkedin profile?

  10. Sammy Tindal says:

    I think that everything posted was very reasonable. However, what about this? suppose you added a little information? I ain’t suggesting your information is not good, but what if you added a headline to possibly grab a person’s attention? I mean Probiotics: The Good Bacteria | Healthy Eats – Food Network Healthy Living Blog is a little boring. You ought to look at Yahoo’s front page and watch how they create article headlines to grab people to open the links. You might add a video or a related picture or two to grab readers interested about what you’ve written. In my opinion, it could bring your website a little bit more interesting.

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