Benefits of Probiotic Foods

With more emphasis on eating healthy or organic foods, diet trends tend to pop up and it can be difficult to tell what is a fad and what is genuinely healthy and beneficial. Probiotics are a newly popular diet concept, but they have some clear benefits. They are also easy to incorporate into a regular diet, making them a valuable addition to a person's nutritional regime.

Probiotic foods contain certain types of bacteria that cause health benefits when eaten frequently enough. According to the World Health Organization and the United Nations, probiotics are "live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts, confer a beneficial health effect on the host." Probiotics are a natural remedy for digestive problems and a preventative approach to health. Probiotics can help stop some problems from ever starting in the first place. Rather than having to take antibiotics to stop a health problem once it has already started, people can take probiotics regularly to help prevent the same problems from beginning.


Nobel Prize winning Russian scientist Elie Metchnikoff was the first person to describe the properties and benefits of probiotic foods in his book "Prolongation of Life." He suggested in this work that certain beneficial bacteria should be ingested to help counteract the effects of more harmful bacteria living in human intestines. These helpful bacteria became known as probiotics in the 1960s. Probiotics as a health additive have been popular throughout Europe for a few decades, and the trend is slowly spreading to America.

Some types of probiotic foods can be traced to ancient times. These are foods such as cultured milk products and some fermented foods. Kefir, which is a cultured dairy product, has been around for many, many years and contains high levels of probiotics. While kefir has been widely available in Europe for many years, it is only recently gaining in popularity in North America.


There are many cited benefits of probiotic foods, though none of them are definitive. While probiotics can help with certain ailments or reduce the likelihood of some infections, they do not cure diseases. They are a dietary supplement, and they can help overall health and productivity. For example, probiotic foods can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Probiotics can help people with lactose intolerance manage their condition more easily, and their bodies may even be able to accept more lactose with the help of probiotics. Diarrhea prevention is the most commonly noted benefit of probiotic foods, and there is some speculation that ingesting probiotic foods while abroad can help lessen the likelihood or severity of travelers' diarrhea.

Foods with Probiotics

Some foods have naturally occurring probiotics in them, but the increasing popularity of probiotics has led to production and sale of specialized foods with added probiotic benefits. Strains of probiotic cultures are found in dairy products, such as yogurt. Not all yogurts contain probiotic cultures, but the brand packaging should list this information for help in selection. Buttermilk also contains probiotics, as do certain types of cheeses and specialty dairy products. Some companies have added probiotics to their products, resulting in probiotic versions of milk, butter, cereal and even chocolate. Foods that have added probiotics will advertise this on their labels, and probiotic foods can be purchased in most grocery stores.

Widely consumed in many areas of the world, cultured dairy products can include yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, acidophilus milk, lebne (a spreadable cheese made from a yogurt product), and some sour creams and cottage cheeses with added cultures. Many types of cheeses contain probiotics. Keep in mind, that not all products have the same concentrations of probiotics.

Found in a variety of foods, probiotics are naturally occurring in fermented cabbage. Known as sauerkraut in Germany, cortido in Central America or kimchi in Asia, fermented cabbage in some form can be found wherever cabbage is grown. Most commercially fermented cabbage products have been pasteurized and this destroys the beneficial bacteria. There are some varieties available which when kept refrigerated do not destroy the probiotic benefits. Unpasteurized salted gherkins and brine-cured olives also contain high concentrations of naturally occurring probiotics.

What Are the Benefits of Probiotic Kefir?

Normally, bacteria is thought of as harmful to the body. It is sometimes the source of infections and sickness. However, some bacteria can provide healthful benefits to the body systems and organs, especially the digestive system. One way to get good bacteria into your diet is by adding kefir to your daily diet. The drinkable yogurt comes in a variety of flavors and is always an ideal source of probiotics.

Kefir is chocked full of a number of nutritional elements, like vitamins and minerals that are easily absorbed by the body. Minerals such as calcium and magnesium are found in high levels in kefir. In addition, there are the B and K vitamins, folic acid, and phosphorous. Thanks to its rich nutritional properties, kefir is known to boost energy and improve overall health.

Lactose Digestion: Those who are lactose intolerant can still consume kefir without the usual issues that come from eating dairy products, such as yogurt. This is because the bacteria and yeast within the kefir interact in such a way to form an enzyme known as lactase, which absorbs the lactose that results after the culture process that all yogurts go through. Also, lactase is an enzyme that the body uses to digest lactose.

Regulate Blood Sugar: Because there are naturally occurring sugars within kefir, it can be a good tool for regulating blood sugar for those who struggle with conditions like diabetes. Although kefir is not a cure that will eliminate problems with blood sugar, it can reduce the food cravings that often result after a drop in blood sugar levels. Just a few ounces of the kefir throughout the day may be enough to produce a noticeable change in blood sugar levels.

Other Benefits: Kefir is a strong source of digestible protein. Proteins are essential for rebuilding and repairing internal organs and systems. The proteins in kefir are heart healthy, without the usual drawbacks of cholesterol and potential artery-clogging that come with meat-based proteins. In addition to helping the cells rebuild and repair themselves, kefit will also help regulate the digestive system. It can improve regularity of bowel movements, although too much can actually lead to constipation.

Boost Immunity: One of the best reasons to include kefir as a source of probiotics in your diet is because of its effect on the digestive system. Naturally-occurring bacteria in the stomach can be killed off as a result of antibiotics. These good bacteria in the stomach are essential for fighting the germs and bad bacteria that enter the digestive system on a regular basis through the food we eat and what we drink. Kefir introduces "good" bacteria into your system that will kill off the bad bacteria and elements, such as pesticides, that may enter your stomach. With these friendly bacteria in your system, your immune system will become stronger because your body will be able to fight outside germs and potential diseases.

Supplemented Probiotic Benefits

Health conscious consumers are demanding that more products with added probiotic benefits be available. Companies such as Kashi, Attune Foods and Yakult have responded with a variety of foods from cereals to granola and chocolate bars and citrus drinks, all with added probiotics. More and more products are available every year, just check the nutritional labels. There are also a variety of pill-form supplements available with varying concentrations of probiotics.


There is some evidence that probiotic diets can be harmful to individuals with certain health conditions, such as acute pancreatitis. Probiotics can harm the bacterial balance in terminally ill patients. People with preexisting health conditions should consult a doctor before beginning a probiotic food regimen since while probiotics can help some conditions, they might aggravate other conditions. There is also some debate over whether or not probiotics effectively replace the natural cultures in human intestines, and what the long-term consequences of probiotic use will be for some individuals. It is important to consult with a doctor or nutritional expert for advice on probiotics and their potential benefits.

Always consult your health care practitioner prior to altering or beginning a new diet. While there is some evidence to support the nutritional benefits of consuming a large amount of probiotic bacteria, this evidence is not conclusive. Beware unsubstantiated health claims that are not supported by studies and facts. Always read the nutritional labels and, if in doubt, consult your doctor.

Post a Comment