Having the right bacteria in there has even been linked to numerous health benefits. This includes weight loss, improved digestion, enhanced immune function, better skin and a reduced risk of many diseases.
According to the official definition, probiotics are “live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host”.
Probiotics are live bacteria that have beneficial health effects when consumed. These friendly bacteria are found in fermented milk products, such as yogurt with live and active cultures.
The main probiotics in fermented milk products are lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacteria.
Probiotics have many beneficial health effects, depending on the species and the amount taken.
– Enhanced immune system: Studies indicate that probiotic bacteria may promote enhanced immunity.
– Lower cholesterol: Regular intake of certain types of probiotics and fermented milk products may lower blood cholesterol.
– Vitamin synthesis: Bifidobacteria can synthesize or make available many kinds of vitamins, including thiamine, niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, folate, and vitamin K.
– Digestive well-being: Fermented milk containing bifidobacterium may promote digestive well-being and lessen the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
– Protection against diarrhea: Probiotics may help treat diarrhea caused by antibiotics.
– Protection against constipation: Several studies suggest that regular consumption of yogurt, fermented with bifidobacterium, may reduce constipation.
– Improved lactose digestibility: Probiotic bacteria have been shown to improve the digestion of lactose, lessening the symptoms of lactose intolerance.
These health benefits may not always apply to yogurt, mainly because some types of yogurt have been heat-treated (pasteurized) after the probiotic bacteria were added.
In heat-treated yogurts, the probiotic bacteria are dead and do not provide any health benefits.
For this reason, it is best to choose yogurt with active or live cultures.
Other Health Benefits of Yogurt
Probiotic yogurt can provide numerous impressive health benefits that go well beyond that of non-fermented milk.
Osteoporosis and Bone Health
Osteoporosis is a condition characterized by weak and brittle bones. It is common among elderly people and is the main risk factor for bone fractures in this age group.
Dairy products have long been considered to be protective against osteoporosis.
In fact, dairy has been associated with higher bone density, an effect believed to be largely caused by the high calcium and protein content of milk.
Studies suggest that regular consumption of yogurt may lower blood pressure in people with hypertension.
However, this effect is not limited to yogurt. Studies on intake of other milk products have provided similar results.
Kefir made from dairy is an excellent source of calcium. In the case of full-fat dairy, it also contains vitamin K2. These nutrients have major benefits for bone health.
Kefir is all the rage in the natural health community. It is high in nutrients and probiotics, and is incredibly beneficial for digestion and gut health. Many people consider it to be a healthier and more powerful version of yogurt.
Kefir originated from parts of Eastern Europe and Southwest Asia. The name is derived from the Turkish word keyif, which means “feeling good” after eating. The lactic acid bacteria turn the lactose in the milk into lactic acid, so kefir tastes sour like yogurt, but has a thinner consistency.
Kefir also contains a wide variety of bioactive compounds, including organic acids and peptides that contribute to its health benefits.
Dairy-free versions of kefir can be made with coconut water, coconut milk or other sweet liquids. These will not have the same nutrient profile as dairy-based kefir.
Yogurt is the best known probiotic food in the Western diet, but kefir is actually a much more potent source.
Kefir grains contain about 30 strains of bacteria and yeasts, making it a very rich and diverse probiotic source. Other fermented dairy products are made from far fewer strains, and don’t contain any yeasts.
Certain probiotics in kefir are believed to protect against infections. This includes the probiotic Lactobacillus kefiri, which is unique to kefir. Studies show that this probiotic can inhibit the growth of various harmful bacteria, including Salmonella, Helicobacter Pylori and E. coli.
Kefiran, a type of carbohydrate present in kefir, also has antibacterial properties.
Kefir made from full-fat dairy is not only a great source of calcium, but also vitamin K2. This nutrient plays a central role in calcium metabolism, and supplementing with it has been shown to reduce the risk of fractures by as much as 81%.
Some test tube and animal studies have shown that kefir can inhibit the growth of cancer cells. This has not been studied in people.
The lactic acid bacteria have already pre-digested the lactose in kefir. People with lactose intolerance can often eat kefir without problems.
Sauerkraut, or fermented cabbage, is another natural source of probiotics. It contains the microbes leuconostoc, pediococcus and lactobacillus that are thought to be beneficial to the gut. It’s best to choose the unpasteurised sauerkraut as the pasteurisation process destroys active, beneficial bacteria. The spicy Korean dish, kimchi, also commonly made from cabbage, is another fermented food loaded with these ‘good’ bacteria.
Some of the health benefits of sauerkraut include its ability to increase your digestive health, boost your circulation, protect your heart health, provide you with quick energy, stimulate your immune system, strengthen your bones, reduce your overall cholesterol levels, eliminate inflammation, protect against certain cancer, and even improve your vision and skin health.
Probiotics can be added to high-quality dark chocolate, up to four times the amount of probiotics as many forms of dairy. Also, a study found that your gut bacteria breaks down and ferments the components in dark chocolate, turning them into anti-inflammatory compounds that benefit your health. In particular, beneficial microbes including Bifidobacterium and lactic acid bacteria “feasted” on chocolate, according to the researchers.
The bioactive compounds in cocoa can improve blood flow in the arteries and cause a small but statistically significant decrease in blood pressure.
Dark chocolate improves several important risk factors for disease. It lowers the susceptibility of LDL to oxidative damage while increasing HDL and improving insulin sensitivity.
Observational studies show a drastic reduction in heart disease risk for the people who consume the most chocolate.
Studies show that the flavanols from cocoa can improve blood flow to the skin and protect it against sun-induced damage.
This refers to super-food ocean-based plants such as spirulina, chorella, and blue-green algae. These probiotic foods have been shown to increase the amount of both Lactobacillus and bifidobacteria in the digestive tract. They also offer the most amount of energetic return, per ounce, for the human system.
SPIRULINA is a type of blue-green algae that grows in both salty and fresh water.
It is often claimed that spirulina contains vitamin B12, but this is false. It contains pseudovitamin B12, which has not been shown to be effective in humans.
Phocyanin is the main active compound in spirulina. It has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Studies have shown that spirulina can lower triglycerides and LDL cholesterol, and sometimes may raise HDL (the “good”) cholesterol.
Fatty structures in the body can become oxidized, which drives the progression of many diseases. The antioxidants in spirulina can help prevent this from happening.
Spirulina may have some anti-cancer properties, especially against a type of precancerous lesion called OSMF (oral submucous fibrosis).
In one study, a higher dose of spirulina has been shown to lead to lower blood pressure levels, a major risk factor for many diseases.
CHLORELLA is a tiny, unicellular green algae, three to eight micrometres in diameter, which when grown in large quantities in South East Asia and Australia gives lakes and rivers a green tint. Lactobacilli, indispensable for the right effect of intestinal flora, increase four times on absorption of CGF. Thus chlorella works on intestinal flora like a probiotic. Chlorella has a primarily probiotic effect and consequently encourages the growth and protection of lactic acid producing lacto-bacilli which occur naturally in the body. When the bacteria count is reduced, for example after a course of antibiotics, the lacto-bacilli’s reproduction rate increases as a result of the extract and their recovery from the attack from the antibiotics is speedier.
BLUE-GREEN ALGAE are used as a source of dietary protein, B-vitamins, and iron. They are also used for weight loss, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), hayfever, diabetes, stress, fatigue, anxiety, depression, and premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and other women’s health issues.
Blue-green algae may help to boost the immune system and fight infections. Test tube studies have found that blue-green algae stimulated the growth of probiotics, which are sometimes killed by antibiotic medications.
Blue-green algae may protect the liver from toxins, damage and cirrhosis in people with chronic hepatitis, according to preliminary studies cited by the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Miso is one the main-stays of traditional Japanese medicine and is commonly used in macrobiotic cooking as a digestive regulator. Fermented soya drinks and miso soup are rich in probiotics. Miso soup is made from a fermented soybean paste which is a popular breakfast food in Japan. Miso is more commonly made using cultures of the fungus Apergillus, which can breakdown substances in soybean to form the plant oestrogen equol. This salty soup is also low in calories and high in B vitamins and antioxidants such as phenolic compounds.
Beyond its important live cultures, miso is extremely nutrient-dense and believed to help neutralize the effects of environmental pollution, alkalinize the body and stop the effects of carcinogens in the system.
The production of miso requires addition of a fermentation starter called koji, which usually contains the fungal microorganism Aspergillus oryzae, although it’s also possible to produce miso with other cultures, such as a yeast called Saccharomyces rouxii. These probiotic organisms activate the fermentation process in the raw materials, which are soybeans, alone or in combination with barley, brown rice or other grains. It can take up to three years to produce high-quality miso, with the product becoming smoother and acquiring a more complex flavor the longer it ferments.
Some pickles are another probiotic due to being prepared by fermentation. Pickled onions are preserved in vinegar and have no probiotic activity. Pickled onions are traditional British fare but products that aren’t fermented in vinegar are a better option for probiotics. Pickling in sea salt, brine or other water solutions encourages the growth of lactobacillus bacteria and is believed to give pickled foods their digestive benefits.
A great substitute for meat or tofu, tempeh is a fermented, probiotic-rich grain made from soy beans. A great source of vitamin B12, this vegetarian food can be sauteed, baked or eaten crumbled on salads. If prepared correctly, tempeh is also very low in salt, which makes it an ideal choice for those on a low-sodium diet.
This Indonesian patty, made from fermented soybeans, produces a type of natural antibiotic that is thought to fight certain bacteria. Tempeh is also very high in protein and has a smoky, nutty taste, similar to mushrooms. This food is often marinated and used instead of meat in some dishes.
An Asian form of pickled sauerkraut, kimchi is an extremely spicy and sour fermented cabbage, typically served alongside meals in Korea. Besides beneficial bacteria, Kimchi is also a great source of beta-carotene, calcium, iron and vitamins A, C, B1 and B2.
Kombucha is a form of fermented tea that contains a high amount of healthy gut bacteria. This probiotic drink has been used for centuries and is believed to help increase your energy, enhance your well being and maybe even help you lose weight. However, kombucha tea may not be the best fit for everyone, especially those that have had problems with candida.