Natural Probiotic Yogurt for Kids
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Yogurt, with its high levels of protein, calcium and vitamins, has long been recognized by the medical community as a healthy food for both adults and children. Probiotic yogurt is yogurt that contains live microorganisms thought to be beneficial to the human body. While there is no definitive report or guideline from the medical community that states that parents should be feeding their children probiotic yogurt, some individual studies have shown that certain strains of probiotics found in yogurt may help reduce infections. Natural probiotic yogurt is especially beneficial for children as it contains the important nutrients and health benefits without any artificial ingredients.
Your stomach naturally contains a mixture of beneficial and harmful bacteria. The beneficial bacteria helps protect against diseases, aids in digestion and helps absorb nutrients. The beneficial bacteria offset the presence of any harmful bacteria. Sometimes, however, the balance between beneficial and harmful bacteria is thrown off by disease-causing bacteria, fungi, yeasts and parasites. Children are especially prone to bacterial imbalance because of stomach and respiratory infections that they pick up in school, as well as tooth decay. Another cause for the imbalance is antibiotics, which children commonly take for bacterial infections but which kill off beneficial bacteria in the process.
Some yogurts marketed for children have labels stating that they have probiotics, also called live and active cultures. All yogurts initially contain live and active cultures. However, some yogurts are heat-treated after fermentation in order to extend shelf life and reduce tartness. The heat treatment kills the live and active cultures. Probiotic yogurts have not been heat-treated so they still contain live and active cultures. Consuming yogurt fortified with probiotics, which are similar to the beneficial bacteria naturally found in the stomach, increases the presence of good bacteria and is therefore thought to increase health.
While there are thousands of probiotics, only certain strains have been shown through clinical trials to be beneficial. Lactobacillus is one probiotic that comes in several strains, including Lactobacillus GG, Lactobacillus casei DN114 001 and Lactobacillus casei Shirota. A 2008 report by The Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology concluded that all of these strains have been shown to reduce diarrhea. Lactobacillus GG was also shown to be helpful in treating eczema and milk allergy in children, as well as reducing illness in children that attended daycare. Several studies have also shown that some probiotic strains, specifically Bifidobacterium infantis 35624, may be useful in dealing with irritable bowel syndrome. In a 2010 study funded by Danon, researchers from Georgetown University Medical Center found that Lactobacillus casei DN114 001 reduced the incidence of gastrointestinal infections and upper respiratory infections in children ages 3 to 6. To obtain these health benefits for your children, purchase yogurts labeled with the scientific names of these probiotic strains.
Natural Probiotic Yogurt
Not all yogurts, even ones containing probiotics, are healthy. Some yogurts are high in sugar and artificial ingredients. While there is no guideline from the Food and Drug Administration on what is considered natural yogurt, the term "natural" usually means that it is made without artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors, additives and preservatives. Choosing natural probiotic yogurts will help control your child's sugar intake while providing all of the nutritional and health benefits.
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: An Introduction to Probiotics
About Yogurt.com: Live and Active Culture (LAC) Yogurt Facts
ABC News; Probiotics May Cut Down on Children's Infections, Study Finds; Lauren Cox; May 2010
"The New York Times"; Probiotics - Looking Underneath the Yogurt Label; Tara Parker-Pope; September 2009
CBS News; The Skinny on Yogurt and Your Health; October 2009
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