- $5.25 for two 10-ounce frozen yogurts ($10.50 value)
Probiotics: They're Alive!
Along with being lower in fat than ice cream, yogurt also contains probiotics. Learn how these little guys can help keep you healthy.
Your digestive tract contains hundreds of different types of bacteria—and that's a good thing. Not only do they help digest your food, they also synthesize certain nutrients and support the immune system by fending off other tiny ne’er-do-wells that might make their way in. (After all, space that’s taken up by pathogens is space that the good guys can’t use to throw polite dinner parties.) The bacteria that have this happy symbiotic relationship with humans are known as probiotics, and food scientists have been paying more and more attention to them as we come to better understand their powers.
Some of the most common probiotics to turn up on the dinner table or at the dessert counter are lactic-acid bacteria, found in yogurts and cheeses made with live cultures. These bacteria aid in breaking down lactose and other sugars, which makes them particularly helpful to the lactose intolerant. Studies have also suggested that some probiotics might help soothe recurring digestive issues and even fight respiratory infections.
Probiotic bacteria must face a number of obstacles to have these beneficial effects on our bodies. A giving serving of yogurt has only a few billion bacteria versus our gut’s tens of trillions, and they’re vulnerable to changes in oxygen, light, and temperature. But a 2011 study in Science Translational Medicine suggested they don’t need to take over in order to help out—instead, it seems that they communicate with the body’s native flora to spark larger chain reactions. Some yogurt-makers now take extra care to preserve the probiotics in their cultures for maximal effect, and other common natural sources include fermented foods such as brewer’s yeast, miso, and sauerkraut.