Probiotics are quite the buzz and while you may be taking a probiotic supplement because someone told you it was important, chances are, you don’t fully understand the “why” behind probiotics.
Let’s start with what probiotics are. Most of us have between 500-1000 different species of bacteria in our gut. Yikes! Not to worry, this is actually a good thing. You see, probiotics are essentially live bacteria that help all of those wonderful species of good bacteria in your gut do its job. Not only do probiotics help maintain good gut health but because of the relationship between the gut and the immune system, consuming probiotics on a daily basis can offer a stronger immune system. Definitely a beneficial thing year-round!
Probiotics can contain many different microorganisms but the most common are those belonging to the groups Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Interestingly, different types of probiotics could have different effects on the body which is why it is so important not include a wide variety of probiotic foods in your daily nutrition plan. Think of it like investing, you want to diversity your probiotics to have the most benefit.
That said, here are a few good food sources of probiotics:
yogurt (choose the kind without added sugar)
My preference is to try to emphasize getting probiotics from food but I do understand the need for probiotic supplements. If you do explore taking a probiotic supplement, definitely have a chat with a qualified health professional first (such as a Registered/Sport Dietitian). A very basic starting place for choosing probiotic supplements includes finding one with a minimum of 25 billion CFU per serving (I prefer 40 billion personally), have at least a few different strains of bacteria, and ones that will not be destroyed by stomach acid.
Now, get to making that next shopping list and be sure to include at least a few different types of foods that contain these wonderfully beneficial probiotics!
Bob Seebohar, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS, METS II
Co-Founder/Owner, Birota Foods
Founder/Owner, eNRG Performance