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The Pros of Probiotics

Written by Lauren Cardarelli, editorial intern

Many yogurts pack a healthy amount of "good bacteria." (Photo by Jonathan Kantor)

We often hear that probiotics are important to maintain healthy digestion, but what exactly do they do? FITNESS recently learned all about the friendly bacteria from Dr. Melina B. Jampolis, M.D., who we met with at an Activia event. We asked her about the digestive system, the role of probiotics in overall health and how to incorporate the live microorganisms in our diets. Here’s what she had to say:

How do probiotics help regulate our digestive system?

Probiotics are friendly bacteria that live in our intestines. The gut contains 70 percent of our body’s immune tissue so a healthy gut is important for healthy immune function. Probiotics help keep the cells of the colon healthy, promoting good digestion. Things like stress, lack of sleep, medication and infection can throw off the ratio of good to bad bacteria in the intestines which can lead to overall health and digestive problems. This bacteria keeps the cells that line the gut healthy, they produce vitamins and produce lactase, an enzyme that helps break down milk.

Can you get probiotics from frozen yogurt? 

It depends on the preparation of the frozen yogurt and if probiotics are added. Although yogurt contains live cultures, it does not contain probiotics unless they are added. If it is frozen slowly the probiotics can survive but if it's just placed in the freezer they will not.

How can those who don’t like yogurt incorporate probiotics into their diet?

Probiotic supplements, both refrigerated and shelf stable, are available. You can also find different strains in chocolate bars and juices but the benefits of probiotics are strain specific so if you are looking for a specific benefit, such as supporting a healthy digestive system, it is important to choose a clinically validated product.

Pastry Chef and Bravo’s Top Chef Just Desserts judge, Johnny Iuzzini, showed us how easy (and delicious!) incorporating probiotics into your diet can be. Check out his sweet recipe!

Panna cotta is Italian for cooked cream. (Photo courtesy of Activia)

Yogurt-Orange Blossom Panna Cotta

  • 2 1/4 cups Activia Vanilla Yogurt
  • 1/3 cup skim milk
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 gelatin sheets or 1 tablespoon gelatin powder
  • Lime zest
  • 1 teaspoon orange blossom water
  1. Heat sugar and milk until hot.
  2. Soak the gelatin in ice water for 10 minutes then squeeze out excess water and add to the hot milk. Allow milk to cool to room temperature.
  3. Stir in the vanilla yogurt, lime zest and orange blossom water and pour into a 4-ounce ramekin or a mold and allow to set in the refrigerator.
  4. Once set, carefully unmold into the serving bowl by inverting and releasing one edge.