Probiotics: The Friendly Bacteria

What to Look For at the Grocery Store

"With probiotic foods, the marketing hype is way ahead of the science," says Dr. Greer. But we do know that the best sources of friendly bacteria are dairy foods such as yogurt, kefir (which is similar to yogurt), and aged cheeses such as cheddar and gouda. These foods also are all heavy in vital nutrients like protein, calcium, and, in some cases, vitamin D, which are more reasons they're smart food choices. And evidence has shown that the live cultures in yogurt can help kids (and adults) who have a lactose intolerance, which makes it hard for them to digest lactose, the natural sugar in milk. Regardless, when you're shopping for yogurt, look for the Live & Active Cultures Seal, which was developed by the National Yogurt Association to identify a product that in theory will impart the most health benefits.

Keep in mind that the shortage of scientific studies on food products doesn't necessarily mean that these items aren't effective. Some of the foods that do contain a probiotic punch of at least 1 billion CFUs include Activia yogurt, Attune nutrition bars, GoodBelly fruit drinks, Yakult cultured milk drink, and Yo-Plus yogurt. They're also safe for young children, says Dr. Merenstein. But whether these foods actually live up to such claims as regulating the digestive system, preventing diarrhea, or enhancing overall immunity in kids still remains to be seen.

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