Nutrition-Bites-Hot-Topic-Probiotics

Nutrition Bites: Hot Topic - Probiotics

Gut health is getting more attention as research reveals the benefits of a balanced microbiota, or the microbe population in the intestine. Prebiotics are also gaining popularity due to their direct impact on gut microbiota, but what do we really know about probiotics?

What are probiotics? The Food and Agriculture Organization and The World Health Organization define probiotics as “Live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.” More simply put, they are good bacteria that are similar to those found naturally in the gut. Probiotics can improve or regenerate intestinal bacteria to create an overall balance gut microbiota, which can improve overall gastrointestinal health.

What foods contain probiotics? Fermented dairy foods such as yogurt, kefir, and aged cheeses contain live cultures, or probiotics. When purchasing these foods, look for "live, active cultures" on the label. Look for bifidobacteria and lactobacilli, which are two strains of bacteria that have been shown to have positive effects on gut health. Other non-dairy sources include kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, and tempeh.

Supplement vs. Food Source? While probiotics are available in a supplement form, it is best to get them through food sources. The body is able to use food sources of probiotics more easily than the supplement form. Additionally, some supplements do not meet the criteria to be called a probiotic, even though they are labeled as a probiotic.

What about prebiotics? Prebiotics are probiotics' partner in crime. Prebiotics help boost "good bacteria" because they serve as food for probiotics. Prebiotics come from bananas, onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, artichokes, soybeans, and whole-wheat foods. Together, prebiotics and probiotics are known as symbiotics. They work together to provide a greater effect than they could individually. Bananas on top of yogurt, asparagus with tempeh, and oatmeal with yogurt are examples of symbiotic combinations.

While research has revealed health benefits of consuming prebiotics and probiotics, more research is needed to determine recommended amounts, other benefits, and the overall impact on gut health. Currently, symbiotics are thought to aid in the prevention of specific allergies, and the reduction of lactose intolerance symptoms, but it is important to note the effects can be different from person to person.

Want more information about probiotics? Check out www.eatright.org.

By Kelsey Rosenbaum MS, RD, LDN

(Nutrition Bites is a recurring feature that appears regularly in the Tulane PRC's e-newsletters and covers nutrition and health tips from Kelsey Shanklin, MS, RD, LDN. If you have any suggestions for Nutrition Bites topics, please contact Naomi Englar at nking2@tulane.edu or 504-988-7410.)

Topics:   diet , nutrition , food environment , food marketing , health communication

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