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Yogurt vs. Supplements: Which Is Better? + 5 Ways to Support Gut Flora

7 minute read

The debate about the probiotic potency of yogurt and supplements has been going on for years, and it only seems to be getting more heated. There are many millions of dedicated yogurt-lovers, but there is an equal number of people who swear by the positive effects of their probiotic supplements.

So which one is better? Is it yogurt or a supplement? We decided to break down the pros and cons of each:

Yogurt Pros:

Naturally Healthy: Organic yogurts are a natural source of gut microbes. Yogurt also contains other beneficial nutrients, such as calcium and protein.

Protection Comes Standard: Studies show that the dairy found in yogurt may help coat the stomach and protect the bacteria as they travel to your gut.

Yogurt with fresh apricots

Yogurt Cons:

Dead Bacteria: Many yogurts don’t actually contain live bacteria. That’s because any type of heat pasteurization or sterilization kills the microorganisms before they even hit store shelves.

You’ll need to check the label for phrases such as “active live cultures” to be sure that you’re getting a yogurt that even contains live bacteria at all. Even then, it’s difficult to estimate the number of probiotics each serving of yogurt provides, as brands can vary.

Most brands haven’t even been studied for potency or effectiveness.

Limited Strains: There are usually only three types of probiotics that occur naturally in yogurt: Lactobacillus, Streptococcus Thermophilus, and Bifidobacterium. Unlike supplements, most yogurt labels don’t list a precise amount of colony-forming units. They should.

During a study of Activia funded by its manufacturer, Dannon, participants had to consume yogurt two or three times a day to get noticeable benefits. That may be an unreasonable expectation for most people.

Woman reading supplement facts on a bottle

Too Sweet to Be Healthy: Many yogurt brands contain fructose syrup and other processed sugars, which can be a big drawback for healthier individuals who don’t like the taste of plain yogurt.

Supplement Pros:

Strains On-Demand:  Probiotic supplements usually contain more varieties of strains per serving than a grocery store yogurt does. They list exactly the type of strain and the number of bacteria per serving clearly on the label.

Not Everyone Eats Everything: It’s a much better option for people who don’t like yogurt, or who may have certain dietary needs or allergies.

Prebiotics:  Quality brands usually contain prebiotics, which is a necessary food for the microbes. Yogurt generally does not include them.

Convenience: Since supplements are just easy-swallow capsules, they’re quick and easy to take. Quality probiotic brands now include delayed-release capsules that protect the beneficial gut microbes as they travel to your digestive tract. Plus, they have a longer shelf life than yogurt.

Woman taking a supplement with water with lemon

Supplement Cons:

Missing Ingredients: Probiotic supplements don’t normally include other minerals and nutrients that some yogurts might.

Not a Matter of Taste: May not be a good choice for individuals who don’t like swallowing pills.

Ultimately, the decision to choose yogurt or a probiotic supplement is up to the individual. If you do decide that taking a supplement is better for your lifestyle, we suggest trying a premium probiotic that includes at least 10 strains and 50+ billion live cultures for a more potent intake of microbes than the average cup of yogurt.

Of course, this isn’t a zero-sum game. If you like yogurt but don’t want it every day, probiotic supplements can be a great way to, well, supplement your diet.

Bonus Tips: 5 Ways To Support Gut Flora

Our digestive microbiome is closely connected to the rest of our organs, including our brain and immune system. In fact, the cells of about 70 percent of the latter are all located in the gut. That said, we want to do whatever we can to help support our gut flora. Listed below are five ways we can do just that:

Man petting his dog by the lake

Consider Adopting A Dog

While it may sound strange, owning a dog can positively affect your microbiome. Studies show that dog ownership is associated with a kind of house dust that exposes us to Lactobacillus. This strain is associated with a healthy digestive tract and glowing skin.

Make Probiotics A Priority

No microbiome article is complete without mentioning the importance of taking probiotics. It’s essential to get a variety of strains from as many food sources as possible, but one way to ensure you get what you need is with a supplement.

| Related: How to Maintain a Long-Term Probiotics Routine |

Sleep Well

Yet another reason to try to get seven to eight hours of sleep a night: it can affect the quality of your microbiome. Researchers say that practicing a good sleep routine can help maintain your gut bacteria. Conversely, healthy bacteria can inhibit the production of cytokines. Doing so defines the transition between non-REM and REM cycles, resulting in a better night’s sleep.

Eat More Plants

Consuming leafy greens will provide your microbiome with prebiotics, which is essentially food for your gut bacteria. Eating enough plant-based greens—such as spinach and kale—will also help support your intestinal lining, which is linked to the immune system.

Woman after workout at home

Try Yoga

This ancient practice is basically a two-for-one. It provides exercise and stress-relief, both of which are paramount to nurturing healthy gut flora. One study found that the microbiomes of forty professional rugby players were significantly more diverse than those who didn’t participate in daily physical activity.

Lowering stress can also positively impact our gut bacteria. The production of large amounts of adrenaline leads to extra immune responses, which ultimately can overwork our microbiome.

The Bottom Line

Our gut flora is intimately connected to dozens of other functions in our bodies, so it’s paramount to keep them healthy and happy.

While all of the suggestions here can help support your gut flora, the most important tip to keep in mind is to consider taking a high-quality probiotic supplement, that, if possible, also contains the prebiotics found in leafy greens, which means you can check off two items on the list above in one potent capsule.

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