Chances are you have seen the TV commercials for probiotic yogurt. And if you’re one of the millions of Americans who struggle with digestive issues such as irritable bowel syndrome, constipation or diarrhea, the idea of eating tasty yogurt to cure your ills may sound appealing.
Yogurt tops the list of food sources containing probiotics, the good bacteria that make everything flow smoothly in your gut. But not all yogurts are created equal. Beware the sugar-laden yogurts, especially ones that come complete with extra toppings, such as cookies or candies, that you can stir in. While you may be getting some health benefits from the yogurt itself, the sugary toppings won’t be doing you any healthy favors.
When you buy yogurt, take a look at the label and make sure it includes a statement with wording along the lines of “Contains live cultures” or “Contains active cultures.” Some brands may even list the specific cultures on the ingredient label. According to the National Yogurt Association (yes, there really is such a thing), beneficial cultures to look for in yogurt include Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. These little guys with the difficult-to-pronounce names are the ones responsible for turning pasteurized milk into yogurt during the process of fermentation. If the label doesn’t list live or active cultures as an ingredient, move on to another brand.
Once you have found a yogurt that you like with strains of good bacteria, incorporate it into your daily diet. Rather than hiking up sugar levels with cookie or candy toppings, you can dress up plain yogurt with sliced fruit or a touch of honey. You can also mix yogurt with granola or cereal for breakfast,
or include it in a fresh fruit smoothie any time of day.
If you are interested in a yogurt alternative, give kefir a try. Kefir, a drink made from fermented cow’s milk, also contains good bacteria and is like drinkable yogurt. Other foods that pack a punch of probiotics include sauerkraut and pickles.