Contributed by- Krushna Charan
We have heard that bacteria can cause diseases, but certain types of bacteria can be beneficial for our health. Studies have shown that some kinds of live bacteria present in fermented foods can help prevent certain diseases. Probiotic foods are one of them and can be consumed through fermented foods or supplements. The imbalance of bacteria in your digestive system leads to many diseases. Probiotics help balance gut bacteria and provide a wide range of health benefits. In this article, we are going to discuss the benefits of probiotics and the food they are found in.
What are probiotics?
Your body contains both good and bad bacteria. You lose good bacteria from your body when you take antibiotics. Probiotics are living microorganisms and yeasts, found in fermented foods and supplements that promote your digestive health by providing good bacteria. They can help in improving your health by maintaining the right balance of the good and bad bacteria in your gut.
What are the types of probiotic strains?
Some types of bacteria are categorized as probiotic strains. These are:
- Lactobacillus: Lactobacillus is the most common type of probiotic strains found in fermented foods and yoghurt. Different types of these bacteria can help people with diarrhoea and may help to digest lactose, the sugar in the milk.
- Bifidobacteria: Bifidobacteria are the microscopic organisms considered as probiotics that are commonly found in your digestive tracts and stomach. These bacteria are found in fermented dairy products. It can help ease the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive issues.
- Saccharomyces boulardii: It is a type of yeast found in probiotic foods that helps reduce the inflammation in the digestive system.
What are the benefits of probiotic foods?
Fermented foods can be beneficial for a person with gut health issues. This fermentation process can make food more nutritious and make nutrients like vitamins easily accessible. These fermented foods are often called probiotics. Here’s the list of benefits of taking probiotic foods:
- Maintains the ideal balance of good bacteria in your digestive system: When we consume probiotics, good bacteria in them can provide health benefits. An imbalance of gut bacteria occurs due to certain illnesses, medications like antibiotics, poor diet, etc. This can cause digestive issues, mental health problems, obesity and other diseases. Probiotics restore the natural balance of gut bacteria when consumed.
- Prevents and treats diarrhoea: Diarrhoea is a side effect of taking antibiotics. Some types of viral infections, parasites or food poisoning can also cause diarrhoea. Probiotics can help reduce diarrhoea by balancing the amount of good and bad bacteria in the gut.
- Improves your mood and mental health conditions: Gut health is linked with your mood and mental health. By adding probiotics to your diet, you can improve on your digestion, which can work towards balancing your anxiety and look after your overall mental well-being.
- Keeps your heart healthy: By lowering your bad cholesterol (LDL) and reducing blood pressure, probiotics can help keep your heart healthy. Lactic acid-producing bacteria present in probiotic foods may help reduce cholesterol by breaking down the bile in your gut.
- Reduces the symptoms of digestive disorders: Probiotic foods can help reduce the symptoms of digestive disorders such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and irritable bowel syndrome. Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus strains may improve the symptoms of digestive disorders.
- Boosts your immune system: Probiotics may help boost your immune system by inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria. It may also boost immune cells such as IgA-producing cells, T lymphocytes and natural killer cells. Studies have shown that Lactobacillus strains can reduce respiratory infections and urinary tract infections.
- Manages your weight: Probiotics help prevent the absorption of the dietary fat in the intestine by excreting it through the faeces. Foods rich in probiotics may help you feel full, burn more calories and store less fat.
[Also read: Know about 15 immunity-boosting foods]
What are the sources of probiotics?
You can add more good bacteria to your gut by consuming probiotics which can be found in the following foods.
- Yoghurt: The Lactobacillus bacteria in yoghurt can help improve your health by strengthening bone health and reducing high blood pressure.
- Cottage cheese (paneer): Cottage cheese or paneer is a fermented food, which is a rich source of probiotics. You can consume raw cheese with sugar or add it to your regular meal.
- Buttermilk: Buttermilk is a fermented dairy drink and a good source of probiotics, which contains several kinds of vitamins and minerals like Vitamin B12, calcium, and phosphorus, etc.
- Green peas: Green peas contain a powerful probiotic Leuconostoc mesenteroides. You can add green peas to your pasta, salads, and omelettes.
In light of the above benefits of probiotic foods, you should consider including them in your diet in balanced proportions. However, you should consult your doctor or dietician before making any changes in your diet and knowing the correct amount that should be taken as per your existing health parameters.
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