Probiotic foods contain live microorganisms that are beneficial to the body. Another way to describe them is foods with good bacteria that promote balance in your system. Probiotic foods are fermented or cultured, at least partially. This is the way to introduce live microorganisms in them. Since there is “life” in these foods, they usually do not keep very long and must be consumed immediately.
Probiotic Foods in Your Diet
Your body, particularly your intestinal area, is actually a habitat for both good and bad bacteria, although the good should always outnumber the bad. When you have an abundant supply of good bacteria, your immune system becomes relatively strong. However, a stressful lifestyle, consumption of more processed than natural foods and lack of essential nutrients in the body can contribute to a decrease in the supply of good bacteria. When this happens, disease sets in as the bad bacteria outnumber the good. In addition, certain medication (antibiotics) and treatment procedures (chemotherapy) combat pathogens, or disease-causing bacteria. Unfortunately, these do not discriminate between the good and bad bacteria, often killing as many beneficial microorganisms in the process. Therefore, it is necessary to always include probiotic foods in your diet to increase your supply of good bacteria.
Probiotics in Food
The most common bacterium used in probiotic foods is Lactobacillus acidophilus. This was the first strain used in the 1920s to make acidophilus milk, which was introduced for the lactose intolerant. Over the years, other strains of bacteria were used to produce probiotic foods, and these included Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Lactobacillus GG and variants of bifidobacteria.
Studies have yet to conclusively show that all probiotics promote better intestinal health. So far, there are indications that the Lactobacillus GG strain survives processing in the gut and is beneficial to the colon. Other studies claim that yogurt, the most popular among probiotic foods, helps prevent diarrhea during antibiotic treatment and reduces the risk of vaginal yeast infection.
Health experts who support the effectivity of using probiotics are those involved in alternative medicine. They claim that consuming probiotic foods can reduce eczema, improve immunity against infections, reduce childhood allergies and asthmas, and improve overall intestinal health.
Yogurt is the most publicized probiotic food. However, there are other probiotic foods beneficial to your health, and here are three of them.
A staple in Japan, miso is a fermented paste mixture of soybeans, starch (either rice or barley), salt, water and yeast aged at least 3 years. It is rich in isoflavones, which are believed to block out carcinogenic cells.
Kefir is goat, sheep or cow milk with kefir grains, which are a mixture of yeasts and bacteria. These grains are a highly complex community of microorganisms. They have antioxidant properties and are said to aid in lactose digestion.
Sauerkraut is finely shredded cabbage fermented with lactic acid bacteria, including Lactobacillus. It is made through the pickling process and stores for a very long time. In fact, sauerkraut can be kept for several months inside an airtight container if it has been fully fermented.