Bacteria get a bad rap, but these living microorganisms aren’t always a bad thing. Probiotics, also known as “good” bacteria, work actively to support the immune system, fight infections and balance the gut microbiota. Below, we take a closer look at the good bacteria in food and how certain strains contribute to a healthy, happy body.
The essential role of probiotics
Every human body has a unique microbiome made up of good and bad bacteria. When an infection is contracted, the bad bacteria multiply and unbalance the immune system. When this happens, the good bacteria steps in to eliminate these harmful strains and restore the body’s natural balance.
Understanding the Microbiome
Every human body is made up of trillions of microbes. This miniature ecosystem is known as the microbiome and includes bacteria, as well as fungi, yeasts, viruses and protozoa. No two humans have the same microbiome, which means there are billions of different variations.
Discover Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium
Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are the most common types of probiotics and are considered live microorganisms. Both are made up of multiple strains of “good” bacteria and tick all the boxes required of a probiotic. This includes:
- Being isolated from a human body
- The ability to survive in the gut after being consumed
- Deliver a Proven Health Benefit
- Safe for human consumption
The Benefits of Good Bacteria
There is plenty of scientific research to support the benefits of good bacteria. Some of the most advertised benefits include:
- Support immune function
- Reduce inflammation
- Aid in the digestion of food
- Prevent outbreaks of bad bacteria
- Provide the body with essential vitamins
- Support cells in the gut
- Break down and absorb drugs
Probiotics in food
Good bacteria occur naturally in the body. That said, many foods are loaded with probiotics that can be consumed to increase levels of beneficial microbes. Foods that contain live and active cultures, such as yogurt, are an excellent source of probiotics. Sourdough bread is loaded with probiotics, with foods such as cottage cheese, tempeh, fermented pickles and miso soup also great for microbiome health.
Kimchi, a type of fermented cabbage popular in Korea, is rich in a bacteria called Lactobacillus kimchi, which promotes digestive health. Kombucha is another food source with probiotic properties, with the fermentation process being fueled by good bacteria.
Consuming good bacteria in food is a great way to boost the microbiome. However, many people choose to supplement with pills, powders, liquids, and other sources. Analytical techniques such as NMR spectroscopy play an important role in helping scientists develop these supplements and harness the benefits of good bacteria. Sometimes supplements are combined with a prebiotic, which contains complex carbohydrates that feed the good bacteria in the gut and promote growth.
You want to know more about bacteria in food. We cover the good and the bad, including common causes of foodborne illnesses such as Salmonella, E. coli and Campylobacter, in our comprehensive guide: “Bacteria in Food – Types, Tests and Problems”.