About half of all Americans routinely take dietary supplements. The most common ones are multivitamin and multimineral supplements. Making Sense of Vitamins and Minerals: Choosing the foods and nutrients you need to stay healthy explains the evidence behind the benefits and safety profiles of various vitamins and minerals. It also includes the recommended minimum and maximum amounts you should consume, as well as good food sources of…Learn More »
You’ve heard about the “bad” bacteria that can make you sick. But did you know there are also “good” bacteria that can actually improve your health? These beneficial bacteria are called probiotics, from the Latin and Greek words meaning “for life.” Thanks to The Benefits of Probiotics, a just-published guide from the experts at Harvard Medical School, you’ll discover how probiotics can improve your life.
In this information-packed guide, you’ll learn how probiotics can give your health a major boost. The latest research shows that probiotics may offer benefits against a range of health conditions, including allergies, arthritis, asthma, cancer, depression, heart disease, and gastrointestinal (GI) problems. Probiotics may even help with weight loss! With this Harvard Medical School Guide, you’ll discover which probiotics are right for your health needs.
The Benefits of Probiotics includes a helpful list of foods naturally loaded with probiotics, and easy recipes to boost your probiotic intake. The guide also explains what to look for in a probiotic supplement, in terms of quality and quantity of the bacteria, as well as the types of strains included. You also get a handy chart listing common probiotic supplement brands and the bacteria they contain, along with the number of bacteria per dose and other key information.
Prepared by the editors of Harvard Health Publishing in consultation with W. Allan Walker, M.D., Conrad Taff Professor of Nutrition and Director, Division of Nutrition, Harvard Medical School and Professor of Nutrition, Harvard, T.H. Chan School of Public Health (2018)
About Harvard Medical School Guides
Harvard Medical School Guides delivers compact, practical information on important health concerns. These publications are smaller in scope than our Special Health Reports, but they are written in the same clear, easy-to-understand language, and they provide the authoritative health advice you expect from Harvard Health Publishing.
- Good vs. bad bacteria
- Types of probiotics
- Probiotics as a healer
- How to get more probiotics
- Probiotics supplements: When do you need them?
- Attaining a healthy gut
There are two ways to get more good bacteria into your gut: fermented foods and dietary supplements. Fermented foods are the best source, as probioticsupplements, which are typically sold over the counter, are reserved to treat specific ailments as suggested by your doctor, and not recommended for everyday use. Plus, supplements do not have the same FDA oversight as medicationsdo.
So, a big question remains: How much probiotic food do you need? That’s not easy to answer.
There is no recommended daily intake for probiotics, so there is no way to know exactly which fermented foods or what quantity is best. Therefore, the general guideline is to just add as many fermented foods to your daily diet as possible.
Why fermented foods? Fermenting is one of the oldest techniques for food preservation. Mankind has been fermenting foods and drinks like beer and wine for centuries.
Foods that are fermented go through a process of lactofermentation in which natural bacteria feed on the sugar and starch in the food, creating lactic acid. This process creates an environment that preserves the food and promotes beneficial enzymes, B vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids, as well as various species of good bacteria.
Another way to look at fermentation is that it takes one type of food and transforms it into another kind. For instance, cabbage becomes sauerkraut, cucumbers become pickles, soybeans turn into miso, and milk can be made into yogurt, cheeses, and sour cream.
Not all fermented foods contain probiotics. Some foods undergo steps that remove them, as with beer or wine, or make them inactive, like baking and canning. However, most fermented foods contain some amounts of the good bacteria.
If there is a potential downside to fermented foods, it is that their taste and smell can be quite strong, which may be unpleasant for some people. The unique flavors and textures of fermented foods are due in part to the different species of bacteria used.
On the upside, there are many types of fermented foods from which to choose, so there is a good chance you can find something you will enjoy.
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