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Probiotics Naturally: The Impact on Health
Probiotics are “friendly bacteria” that aid in maintaining the proper balance of microorganisms or bacteria in the digestive system. These microorganisms are acquired naturally at birth; however, through our life-span can change. This change may be due to what we eat, antibiotic use and possibly stress. The right balance of bacteria is vital to good health as it supports the immune system and digestion. Research suggests it may also be linked to better blood sugar control, a healthy weight and decreasing inflammation, heart disease and other chronic diseases.
Boosting Probiotics – A Balancing Act
Introducing probiotics into your digestive system helps keep a natural balance of friendly live bacteria in your gut, which is essential for good health. To obtain more probiotics look to fermented foods which are typically dairy products, cabbage, cucumbers and vegetables. Beware of added sugar, calories and salt in these foods. Common fermented foods include:
- Yogurt, Greek Yogurt & Kefir – excellent sources of protein & calcium. It is best to choose plain low-fat varieties and add your own fruit. The label must state “active or live cultures” in order to get probiotics.
- Acidophilus Milk & Buttermilk – select nonfat or low fat Be mindful of the sodium content in buttermilk.
- Sourdough Bread – this has active cultures along with a lower glycemic index which can aid in controlling blood sugar.
- Pickles & Sauerkraut – only refrigerated products contain live probiotics and these are high in sodium. To reduce the sodium, rinse off and keep the portion small.
- Kimchi [fermented vegetables] – check the nutrition label, it may be high in sodium. Keep your total daily sodium intake to 1500 mg. or less a day.
Feed Your Probiotics
To enhance the probiotic, you may want to include a prebiotic food with it. Rich food sources include:
Asparagus • Artichoke • Legumes • Banana
Oatmeal • Honey • Onion • Garlic
For breakfast try some plain yogurt with sliced banana and a garnish of honey. A great way to start the day!
Prebiotics are not bacteria. They are natural components in food that support the growth of the friendly bacteria in your GI tract. They may also enhance calcium absorption and improve digestive health. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are good sources of prebiotics.
Probiotic supplements do not provide the nutrition that whole foods can offer. There are many different types depending on the health concern. Choose only those that are clinically tested. Consult your physician prior to use, especially if you have a compromised immune system.
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