All About Probiotics

By: Brittany York, B.S., CSUN Dietetic Intern

Image: T.L.Furrer/Shutterstock

Probiotics are “good bacteria” that provide health benefits to those who consume them.1,2 Probiotics mainly live in the intestines, and their known health benefits have been traced back as far as 460–370 BC when Hippocrates stated: “All diseases begin in the gut.”1

All humans naturally have good bacteria in their intestinal tract, but certain environmental factors such as diet and use of antibiotics can disrupt the balance of their gut bacteria, as discussed in interview with Dr. Bruce Pendleberry, OMD, LAc (April 2018). The way that probiotics improve gut health (and therefore overall health) is by balancing out the “bad” bacteria in the intestines, which can help prevent certain diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), obesity and type 2 diabetes.1 It is still unclear as to which probiotic strains are effective at preventing/treating these conditions, so more research needs to be done on this topic before any concrete conclusions can be made.3

Each set of human intestines has approximately 1014 bacterial organisms, which altogether contain 3-4 million genes—that is 150 times more genes than the human genome!1 These bacterial genes are responsible for many tasks that are beneficial to the host (us humans).1 Such tasks include turning food into energy, developing and maintaining a healthy immune system, and helping to metabolize drugs.1 The bacteria in your intestines do much more than you may realize, so make sure to give them some love and support!

Probiotics are found in both foods and supplements, but it is best to get them from foods, if possible.2 When choosing a probiotic supplement, Dr. Pendleberry recommends choosing one that has a wide variety of probiotic strains and expect to pay around $1 per pill for quality probiotics. It can be less expensive to get probiotics from foods that naturally contain them. Some foods that are high in probiotics include4:4

Many of these foods are easy (and less expensive) to make at home, but they can also be bought pre-made in grocery stores. Try different flavors and combinations of these foods to see which ones suit your taste buds best!

Easy, Make-Ahead Yogurt Parfait Recipe

Author: Brittany York

Inspired by: Bailey Sissom5

Serves: 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 32 oz container of low-fat plain yogurt
  • 1 lb. of fresh or frozen berries
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups of granola
  • 3 Tbsp honey (optional)
  • 6 mason jars with lids

Instructions:

  1. Mix honey (if using) with yogurt. Divide evenly into 6 mason jars.
  2. Layer yogurt with berries, leaving 1-2 inches at top of jar.
  3. Top with granola if eating right away or put granola in separate container for later use (to prevent it from getting soggy).
  4. Enjoy!

Probiotics can have many proven health benefits.1,2,4 Although probiotic supplements are a good option for some people, they are far more expensive than eating probiotic-rich foods. To find out if you qualify for financial assistance in purchasing healthy foods (including probiotic-rich foods) through WIC or CalFresh.6

CalFresh is a USDA-funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that helps low-income individuals and families buy the food they need.6 CalFresh can help stretch a tight food budget to help qualifying individuals and families incorporate healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, meat and dairy (including yogurt) into their diets.6

Which probiotic-rich foods are YOU excited to try?!

References

  1. Mizock BA. Probiotics. Disease-a-Month. 2015;61(7):259-290. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.disamonth.2015.03.011.
  2. Goldin BR. Health benefits of probiotics. British Journal of Nutrition. 1998;80(S2):S203-S207. doi:10.1017/S0007114500006036
  3. Probiotics: What You Need To Know. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/probiotics/introduction.htm. Published August 22, 2019.
  4. Palsdottir H. 11 Probiotic Foods That Are Super Healthy. Healthline.
    https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/11-super-healthy-probiotic-foods. Published August 28, 2018.
  5. Sissom B. Make Ahead Fruit and Yogurt Parfaits. Simply Sissom. https://www.simplysissom.com/simpleyogurtparfaits/. Published July 25, 2019.
  6. CSUN Food Pantry. California State University, Northridge. https://www.csun.edu/mic/csun-food-pantry#CalFreshOutreach

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