A few years back, we had the privileged of meeting and building a relationship with Dr Robert Martindale, MD of the Oregon Health and Science University. He spoke at length of the importance of pre- and probiotics and the role that whole grains play in our health. The Bob’s Red Mill team left so inspired that we immediately set out to create our line of Nutritional Boosters- essentially protein powders that would contain all of the health benefits of pre- and probiotics. Our mission was to create something with clean, simple ingredients that would also taste really good. That dream became a reality earlier this year when we introduced four Nutritional Boosters that contain probiotics.
What are probiotics? Simply put, probiotics are living organisms that help replenish the good bacteria that live in our intestinal tracts. These good bacteria aid in digestion, overall gut health and support our immune system. They’re a line of defense against illness. If you’ve ever been sick and had to take antibiotics, you’ve likely wiped out your beneficial bacteria and probiotics would be a good way to replenish them.
Why are probiotics important? Probiotics in and of themselves are not super important, what is important is healthy good bacteria in your gut. Probiotics are a way to ensure that you have good, healthy bacteria keeping you in tip-top shape. Think of probiotics as a replenishment system.
When should you use probiotics? Most people will benefit from eating foods that contain probiotics. People with compromised immune systems and other systemic issues should consult with a doctor before adding them to their diet. Probiotics can be used regularly to maintain gut health, but they are essential for recovery from antibiotic use and illnesses where bad bacteria has been introduced (such as food poisoning).
What foods contain probiotics? Probiotics are found in many packaged foods (everything from chocolate to protein bars to ice cream), but are naturally occurring in yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, and tempeh, to name a few. Many naturally fermented foods have them, but you’ll want to look for foods that advertise live cultures- specifically Lactobacillus, Bacilus coagulans, or Bifidobacterium. You can also buy probiotic supplements. They’re typically in the refrigerated section of natural food stores.
How do you know if a food has probiotics? It should absolutely be listed in the ingredient list. If it’s not or it does not list the type of bacteria, move on. Not all of these common sources (like yogurt) contain live cultures and it is the live piece that is key here. Dead bacteria, in this instance, is useless. Be sure to look for a ‘live culture’ claim.
What are prebiotics? A lesser-known piece of the good gut health puzzle are prebiotics. They are not as commonly discussed, but they are equally important. Prebiotics are the foods we ingest that feed our healthy bacteria. Anything that has a decent amount of dietary fiber can function as a prebiotic, but not all prebiotics are created equal. Whole grains and fiber-rich foods are above and beyond the best choice for gut health. It’s so simple to create the perfect formula of pre- and probiotics. You’re enjoying yogurt? Add a scoop of muesli or granola to your meal. Enjoying some tempeh? Pair it with some brown rice or whole grain bread. See? Simple. The nice thing is, high fiber foods are overwhelmingly beneficial to your digestive health anyway, so pairing them with probiotics is a win-win. Read more about this pre- and probiotic relationship here.
Are probiotics gluten free? Yep. There is no gluten in a probiotic. HOWEVER, you’ll want to be sure that the food you’re choosing is gluten free. If you’re taking a probiotic supplement, make sure it’s gluten free, as well.
Are probiotics vegan? Yes, probiotics are considered to be vegan. Again, you’ll want to be sure that the food you’re eating is vegan. For instance, a standard probiotic-rich yogurt is not vegan. Look for vegan yogurts that contain probiotics, or stick to tempeh, kimchi and other plant-based sources. Our nutritional boosters are a great option for a vegan probiotic source.