Rather than harmful germs, probiotics (eg, bacteria, yeast, fungi) in food may be good for the microbiome (eg, organisms that live on skin and in the mouth and lower intestine) 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.
Foods containing probiotics have expanded 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.’ Although the most common sources are dairy, there are non-dairy sources that are available too.
- Yogurt, almond, cashew, soy, or coconut milk based
- Cultured nut 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 an important role in our health, including weight maintenance. 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
Thinking about including more whole foods in your intake? Contact me at [email protected]. Private Nutrition Services are available for BIG Members (@ 30% discount) and the Community. They are listed here.