Hundreds of species of microorganisms thrive in the lining of our intestines. One of these microorganisms is lactobacillus acidophilus--a beneficial bacteria that suppresses growth of the pathogenic and putrefactive bacteria that can make us sick. Microorganisms with beneficial effects are collectively referred to as probiotics. Consuming probiotic-rich foods may promote better health by increasing the amount of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
The most common source of lactobacillus acidophilus is yoghurt. Look for yoghurt with a label stating that the product contains live and active cultures. Cultures must be added after pasteurisation to remain live. Look for other probiotic dairy foods such as kefir (a fermented yoghurt drink) and bottled smoothies, such as those made by Stonyfield Farms. Many dairy-free yoghurts also contain live cultures. Check out yoghurt and kefir made from coconut, soy or rice milk.
Raw kimchi--a spicy fermented Korean side dish--and raw sauerkraut are both rich in lactobacillus acidophilus and other beneficial microorganisms. A similar product is Rejuvenative Foods' Vegi-Delite, a probioitic fermented beet and vegetable condiment with a sweet pungent flavour. Rejuvenative Foods also makes several varieties of cultured salsas, rich in microorganisms and live enzymes.
Kombucha, a fermented tonic made from tea, sugar and live cultures, contains a significant dose of healthy bacteria. Good Belly Plus, a juice box made by NextFoods, is another health beverage loaded with good bacteria. Both products can be found at most health food stores.
Because of the popularity of probiotics, many companies are adding beneficial bacteria to popular foods. Check out Wildwood's probiotic hummus in varieties such as Indian Flavor, Spicy Cayenne and Raspberry Chipotle. Or try Nancy's Cultured Sour Cream with lactobacillus acidophilus and other cultures added.
Some energy bars now contain lactobacillus acidophilus, including Macro Green energy bars and Nature's Plus Ultra energy bars. Other nutrition bars, such as Luna Bar, contain the prebiotic inulin. Prebiotics contain elements that promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the body.
Better Nutrition recommends plain, unsweetened yoghurt as the best source of probiotics because sugar counteracts the beneficial effect of live cultures by feeding the bad bacteria in your body. Prevention warns that the efficacy of probiotics may also be reduced by stomach acid, which kills the healthy bacteria before it can reach the intestines. If this reduction proves to be significant, supplements may be the best way to consume beneficial amounts of friendly bacteria. Supplements are currently available in capsule, tablet and powdered form. Better Nutrition advises buying supplements specially formulated to pass through stomach acid intact.