What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are the beneficial bacteria that naturally reside in all of our intestinal tracts. While there are many different strains of probiotics, the most well known is lactobacillus acidophilus. This strain was discovered in the late 1800′s. Shortly after that, it was shown to have many different health benefits including relieving lactose intolerance, and helping minor intestinal issues.
If you watch TV at all, then you have no doubt seen ads for everything from expensive probiotic supplements, to probiotic drinks, to special probiotic yogurts. In this post, I will not get into the validity of these claims. I just want to point out some of the advantages and disadvantages of both approaches.
The largest growing segment of these different approaches is supplements. They come in several different forms, and vary in price quite a bit. It is good to do some research on the long list of probiotics brands before you make a decision.
One of the advantages of going the supplement route is that a quality probiotic supplement may contain a larger quantity of the live bugs than most yogurts. Along with this, many contain either a larger variety of live bugs, or a specific species. this is good for anybody that may be targeting a specific need.
Finally, supplements are very easy and convenient to take. In a world where we are all so busy, this is desirable.
Along with yogurt, there are many other foods that have recently been impregnated with probiotics. These may be cheese, drinks, as well as many others. Maybe some day they will have probiotic beer…Who knows?
The good thing about foods like these is that they can be easily incorporated into the diet for people who may not like cottage cheese, yogurt, and other fermented dairy products. You can put probiotic cheese on your sandwich, or just down a drink.
The only down side I can see to this approach is that many of these probiotic infused foods are a little pricey. some are only available at health food stores. But if it is within your budget, it may be a good option for you.
Plain Old Yogurt
Yogurt is not the only fermented dairy product that is a good source of probiotics. Others include kefir, cottage cheese, buttermilk, and sour cream.
One advantage of these foods is that they are cheap and widely available. They also keep very well, which is the reason they were developed in the first place.
The possible disadvantage of this is that they may only contain a small amount of live bugs. And these bugs may be of limited species. They also may not fit into the schedule for someone who is very busy.
Lastly, many people only like yogurt if it is loaded with sugar. This may nullify any of the benefits from the live bugs. Many people don’t like cottage cheese and buttermilk.
Non Dairy Alternatives
There are a few non dairy alternatives to get your healthy bugs including raw sauerkraut, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar, and soy bean curd. There are other options available if you do some digging.
These are good for people who do not tolerate dairy well, but again, may be inconvenient and considered not very tasty by some.
So which is the best alternative? I’ll let you decide. Your decision should be based on your tastes, your free time, and your budget.