1 Dec 20230 Comments
Q: Is there a recommended daily intake of probiotics?
A: There are two ways to get more good bacteria into your gut: fermented foods and dietary supplements. Fermented foods are the most natural source.
Probiotic supplements, 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 medications do.
So, a big question remains: How many probiotic foods 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 fermented foods to your daily diet when possible.
Why fermented foods? Foods that are fermented go through a process of lacto-fermentation 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.
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.
The most common fermented foods that naturally contain probiotics, or have probiotics added to them, include yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, pickles, miso, tempeh, kimchi, sourdough bread and some cheeses.
Yogurt is considered the go-to player of probiotic foods because it has a flavor and texture that’s generally appealing to Western palates. Look for the words “live and active cultures” on the label.
Yogurt is easy to add to your diet. Besides having it for breakfast or a midday snack, you can substitute yogurt whenever you use mayonnaise in egg salad or potato salad, or in almost any baking recipe. Yogurt also can be the basis for sauces, salad dressings, or marinades.
Article by Howard LeWine, M.D., an internist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. ©2023 Harvard University. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.