Published: 08/31/2013 - Updated: 03/20/2017
There are about 100 trillion bacteria in your gut that help you maintain a healthy lifestyle.
In recent years, probiotics have become an excellent resource that provides the food industry to deliver benefits to our health and today can be found on pizzas, yogurt, chocolate, etc. If you have not eaten a probiotic product, with their increasing availability at some point you will.
Probiotics are live micro-organisms which we often perceive to be harmful. However, it is these micro-organisms that provide benefits that promote human health if consumed in adequate amounts.
Millions of bacteria inhabit our large intestine processing insoluble fibre and regularising our bowel function. They produce vitamins, including B6, B12 and K2, as well as help the absorption of iron, calcium and magnesium into the body.
Another way in which these bacteria are beneficial for the stomach is that they protect against infection by Salmonella and E. coli which can cause diarrhea, severe anemia and, in extreme cases, kidney failure and even death.
The micro-organisms that transform milk into yogurt and kefir are among the best and multiply well in the dairy products. Milk is a medium rich in oligosaccharides (complex carbohydrates) that feed the bacteria. Dairy products are refrigerated, which is important for heat sensitive organisms, and are slightly acidic so that the bacteria growing on them are able to survive in the stomach, which the milk will protect.
When you consume a food rich in these organisms, ensure that the packaging says live and active cultures, since dead bacteria does not benefit us. The most trusted brands include specific bacteria on their labelling.
Micro-organisms are responsible for fermentation and are therefore indispensable for the preparation of sour pickles, fermented cabbage or sauerkraut and miso soy beans. Fermented foods have been part of the human diet for centuries, but today we consume less. When we do consume these foods, often modern procedures destroy any beneficial bacteria, i.e. it is unlikely that industrialised pickles will contain probiotics nowadays.
It is therefore best to prepare your own fermented food. For sauerkraut, cut cabbage up and place in a bowl, rub the pieces with a tablespoon of salt to remove excess water and store them in the brine and leave them. Wait a week or more until it ferments. You must make sure to keep the cabbage completely covered in the brine to prevent rot or contamination from bad bacteria. You should close the containers tightly to keep bad bacteria out and the good in.
There are now many products that add probiotics, including non-fermented foods such as cookies, coffee beans, blends for smoothies, etc. but the product label must mention that they are live and active cultures, since otherwise they do not offer any health benefits.
Chocolate is a food that also has probiotics that perform well and are advisable in small amounts.
Probiotics are also being added to cosmetics, cleaning products, mouthwash, sanitizers and other products in order to provide a healthy balance of bacteria in the body.
A diet rich in plant foods like fruits and vegetables helps maintain a favourable environment in our intestines for good bacteria to thrive, so that is why it is important that you include them in your diet.