Rather than harmful germs, probiotics (e.g., bacteria, yeast, fungi) in food may be good for our microbiome (e.g., organisms that live on our skin and in our mouth and lower intestine; photo credit NIH Human Microbiome Project) and aid in digestion of food and absorption of nutrients, support immune function, keep ‘bad’ bacteria in check, and restore the good bacteria after antibiotic use. Probiotics are only half of the story, though, so next week I’ll cover prebiotics.
Foods containing probiotics are expanding greatly in markets and range from cereal to yogurt. Thought to be safe for healthy people to consume, they can be found in many products as long as the food label lists ‘active’ or ‘live cultures.’
- Skyr or Quark (similar to yogurt)
- Cottage cheese
- Kefir (fermented milk)
- Kombucha (fermented tea)
- Sauerkraut (fermented cabbage)
- Kimchi (fermented vegetables)
- Pickled vegetables
- Tempeh (fermented soy)
- Miso paste
Heating probiotic foods will kill the organisms, so these need to be consumed cold. Also, shelf stable (aka, canned or packaged) sauerkraut, kimchi, pickled vegetables, miso, etc. do not contain probiotics because the organisms were killed in the canning and packaging process. People with serious health conditions or immune compromise should consult a doctor before beginning a probiotic.
Study of the microbiome is in its infancy, but some indications are that these organisms play a role in our health. A daily probiotic food appears to be one safe way to add organisms to our microbiome and support our health.
Happy and healthful eating,
Donna G. Pertel, MEd, RD, LDN
Have a question about how much probiotic is recommended? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.