If you’ve spent any time in the yogurt section of your local supermarket lately, you might see more and more products that highlight their “live active cultures” – a nice way of saying that the yogurt is full of bacteria.
While the idea of consuming bacteria in the diet may not sound appealing, probiotic bacteria found in yogurt and other fermented dairy products can promote digestive health.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that help maintain the proper balance of the microorganisms (called flora) that live in your digestive tract. Your digestive system is home to hundreds of types of probiotics, and these helpful bacteria keep the growth of other, potentially harmful, bacteria at bay – thus promoting healthy digestion.
The bacteria in your system also help to break down foods that are resistant to normal digestion, allowing you to obtain more nutrients from your foods. In the process, gas is produced – but we have other gas-guzzling bacteria that keep its production in check. So, a healthy balance of these various intestinal ‘bugs’ is key to a well-functioning digestive tract.
One of the most common strains of probiotic bacteria that reside in your intestines is Lactobacillus acidophilus, which is found in yogurt. When you eat yogurt that has ‘active, live cultures’ (the label will tell you), you can be assured that you are consuming this healthy probiotic.
Written by Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD. Susan is a paid consultant for Herbalife.