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Read Up on Probiotics Before You Buy

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If you’re on the fence as to whether to include more probiotics in your diet, you might want to read an article in the October 2011 issue of Today’s Dietitian, which offers an in-depth look at one of the biggest health trends of recent years.

Probiotics, of course, are heavily advertised these days, and can be found in not just yogurt but in a plethora of food products, as well as in supplements and pills. The idea is to introduce “good” bacteria into your digestive system that will balance out the “bad” bacteria and hopefully alleviate gastrointestinal problems like constipation, diarrhea, bloating and gas.

In the article you’ll find information from medical experts on: the various sources of probiotics; how to tell whether there’s a sufficient amount of good bacteria in a product and whether the bacteria are still viable; and words of caution on when probiotics should be avoided.

Coming from a national periodical for registered dietitians, the article is well-researched and contains no bias toward certain probiotics brands.

Here are a few highlights:

-- A dairy food such as yogurt is probably the best “probiotic delivery vehicle” because its short shelf life ensures that its billions of microorganisms are still alive when it’s consumed. Dietitians interviewed for the article also recommended probiotics-laden cottage cheese, smoothies and kefir (a creamy fermented milk that comes in different flavors).

-- Nowadays you can find probiotics in a wide range of non-dairy products, from nutrition bars to fruit drinks to chewing gum. But you have to weigh whether those foods are healthy additions to your diet, given their calories and sugar and salt levels. Plus, those foods might not have the probiotic potency of yogurt and other cultured milk products.

-- The quest for good bacteria may take you into unknown eating territory if you’ve never tried soybean-based foods like tofu and tempeh, which are thought to contain probiotics. Some nutritionists also tout Japanese miso seasoning, kimchi (a spicy Korean condiment), natto (a type of bean from Japan) and kombucha (a mushroom usually added to a tea drink).

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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