Probiotics are components present in some of the food we eat and is defined as a microbial ingredient, which upon ingestion may contain health benefits. Increasing awareness of the complexity of nutrition leads to a need for food that supports our health beyond providing basic nutritional needs. Therefore movement consuming probiotic foods, which is basically bacteria and yeasts which have been shown to improve digestion and even alleviate some allergy symptoms
Some types of probiotic foods can be traced back to antiquity. These are foods that cultured dairy products and some fermented foods. Kefir, 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 popularity in North America.
Widely consumed in many areas of the world, cultured dairy products contain yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, acidophilus milk, lebne (spreadable cheese made from a yogurt product), and some sour cream and cottage cheeses with additional cultures. Many types of cheeses contain probiotics. Remember that not all products have the same concentrations of probiotics.
Found in a variety of foods, probiotics occur naturally in fermented cabbage. Known as sauerkraut in Germany, cortido in Central America or kimchi in Asia, fermented cabbage in any form can exist where cabbage is grown. Most commercially fermented cabbage products are pasteurized, which destroys beneficial bacteria. There are some varieties available which when kept refrigerated not destroy the probiotic benefits. Unpasteurized salted gherkins and pickled olives also contain high concentrations of naturally occurring probiotics.
Supplemented Probiotic Benefits
Health conscious consumers require more products added probiotic benefits to be provided. Companies such as Kashi, attune Foods and Yakult have responded with a variety of foods from cereals to granola and chocolate bars and citrus beverages, all with added probiotics. More and more products are available each year, just check the nutritional labels. There are also a number of pill-form supplements available with varying concentrations of probiotics.
Always consult with your healthcare provider before changing or starting a new diet. While there is some evidence to support the nutritional benefits of consuming large amounts of probiotic bacteria, this evidence is not essential. Beware unsubstantiated health claims that are not supported by research and fact. Always read the nutritional labels and, if in doubt, consult your doctor.