PROBIOTICS 101: A (BRIEF) HISTORY OF YOGURT

YOU KNOW THE COMMERCIALS

A woman opens her fridge, delicately picks out a yogurt, effortlessly peels back the top, maybe mixes in some fruit, and a look slowly appears on her face as the music kicks in and the voice over begins – “…Now with BILLIONS of live probiotics!”

Despite your cabinet full of supplements, a two-in-one solution, like yogurt, just seems so much easier to incorporate into your daily routine.  Instead of a mouthful of pills, having a yogurt cup or parfait for breakfast checks one meal off the list as well as a serving of probiotics, give or take a few vitamins…or so we’re told.  With a Twilight-esque debate brewing and different claims from each side being announced each week, it’s hard to decide whether you should be on Team Yogurt or Team Pills when deciding how you should consume your probiotics.   Have no fear – we here at the LoveBug Lab have done our research and are going to try to end this probiotic brawl once and for all!

A (BRIEF) HISTORY OF YOGURT

Yogurt has been a staple in our diets since 6000 BC, when shepherds and farmers in Central Asia began milking their animals.  The natural enzymes and bacteria in their milk containers (often made out of animal stomachs at the time) curdled the milk, creating yogurt.  People seemed to like the taste of the curdled milk, so the practice continued.  Eventually, the health benefits of yogurt spread throughout the East (probably in part thanks to Genghis Khan, whose armies were believed to live on yogurt) and eventually to the west.  Turkish immigrants first brought yogurt to North America in the 1700s, but the popular eastern food trend didn’t quite catch on until the 1940s when a guy named Daniel Carosso took over a small yogurt factory in the Bronx.  This small yogurt factory is now known as Dannon.  Once the health food culture took hold in America in the 50s and 60s, yogurt became a staple in many families’ refrigerators, and the rest is history (in the making).

BUT IS YOGURT A PROBIOTIC? 

Technically, yes.  Any food that is fermented contains live probiotic cultures to assist in the process.  Often, the live probiotics found in yogurts are strains of Lactobacillus, which are linked to reducing diarrhea, regulating digestion, and reducing the amount of bad bacteria in the gut.*

SO WHAT’S THE DEAL?

While yogurt is an ancient fermented cuisine that has been consumed by our ancestors for centuries, the continual processing and industrialization of our food has actually turned yogurt from being a helpful bacteria-laden snack to a sugar coated disaster.  Walking up and down the aisles of your grocery store, you may notice that there are many different types of yogurts, each with unique “benefits” – Greek, Low-fat, flavored, fruit-on-the-bottom, drinkable, etc.  However, if you take a look at the sugar contents of each, you may be appalled.  According to the American Heart Association, men should aim to have 36 grams of sugar or less a day, while women should have 24 grams or less.  On average, yogurt contains 19 grams of sugar per serving!  That’s the same amount as a Twinkie.  Even worse, many of our nation’s most popular  yogurt brands and flavors have over 30 grams of sugar!

Although some of the sugar in yogurt occurs naturally (on average 12 to 15 grams), the amount of added sugar and ingredients depend on the type of yogurt.  According to Monica Reingal, MS, LDN, CNS, “low-fat yogurts, for example, have a reputation for being notoriously high in sugar.”   Furthermore, since bad bacteria thrive on sugar, any benefits you are gaining from the good bacteria in the yogurt are nulled as the bad bacteria continue to survive.  Many people who eat yogurt may feel more discomfort than relief in their gut as they experience increased bloating, gas, and even bouts of diarrhea and nausea, while countless others notice weight gain as a result of consuming yogurt’s high sugar content.

WHAT ABOUT PROBIOTICS PILLS?

Probiotic supplements, especially in pill forms, seem to be much
more effective
at delivering the good guys to your gut than their
dairy counterpart.  Unlike yogurts, the good ones contain no fillers, sugars, or hidden bad bacteria and don’t expire as quickly as yogurt does.  Furthermore, you know the exact strains you are getting in a probiotic pill as opposed to yogurt.  Yogurts can contain billions of different strains of bacteria, yet not all of them are guaranteed to make a positive impact on your gut.  Pills allow for much more customization when choosing a probiotic supplement to help your personal and unique ailments.

SO…WHAT TEAM AM I ON AGAIN?

Both.  To a certain extent.  There are obviously pros and cons to each – yogurt’s high sugar content and lack of specialization in bacteria strains vs. supplements, some of which don’t offer enough protection from stomach acid.  Yet, there is a solution for each.  If you are a die-hard yogurt fan, try switching to organic Greek yogurt, which can have as little as 6 grams of sugar per serving (depending on whether it’s flavored or not) and the benefits of probiotics.  When looking for an effective probiotic supplement in the form of a pill, look for brands that use special technologies that prevent their bacteria from being destroyed during the natural digestive process.  LoveBug Probiotics have taken a page from nature and use BIO-tract technology in all of our tablets, allowing our bacteria strains to survive the digestive system and be delivered deep in to the digestive tract where they will have the most benefit.  Maintaining a balanced diet of nutrient and fiber-filled foods with low sugar content is the key here, but since we aren’t all perfect at deciphering natural vs. added sugars in even the healthiest of foods, some probiotic supplements are necessary to keep your gut, body, and mind healthy and happy!

Stay tuned for our next edition of Probiotics 101!