What are probiotics and why are they good for you?

What are probiotics and why are they good for you?

Yogurt contains natural probiotics, also known as good bacteria.

Recently, it’s become more popular to eat probiotic-rich foods, and for good reason.

Probiotics help increase the amount of good bacteria in our gut flora, the space where millions of both good and bad bacteria live. Recent research is showing how the health of our gut plays an immense role in the health of the rest of our body.

So, what are probiotics? They are live bacteria that live in our intestines. When our gut has a healthy balance of good bacteria, there are many important potential benefits:.

  • Aiding in the digestion and absorption of foods.
  • Decreasing digestive issues such as diarrhea, constipation, bloating, gas and abdominal discomfort.
  • Improving our mood, immune system and blood sugar control.
  • Reducing the risk of infection.
  • We naturally have these good bacteria in our gut, but unfortunately there are a variety of factors that can cause an imbalance in our gut flora. A diet high in processed foods, stress, and taking multiple rounds of antibiotics or other medications can all decrease the amount of the natural probiotics found in our gut. That is why it’s important that, along with a healthy diet, we consume foods high in probiotics.

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    The most common natural probiotic-containing foods are those that have been fermented, including:.

  • Yogurt, such as Activia.
  • Kefir (a drinkable yogurt).
  • Kombucha (a fermented tea).
  • Sauerkraut or kimchi (fermented cabbage and other vegetables).
  • Miso or tempeh (fermented soybean products).
  • Choosing probiotic foods versus supplements can help the healthy bacteria surpass your acidic stomach to reach your intestines. And with foods like yogurt, you are also providing your body with multiple essential nutrients such as calcium, B vitamins and potassium.

    Libbie Reichling, RDN, LD, is a dietitian with Des Moines-based Hy-Vee. This information is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.