You have most likely heard of probiotics and prebiotics, but what are they and do you need them?
They are components of food that may improve health, specifically gut health. Gut health has been getting a lot of buzz lately, and for good reason – the gut’s bacterial composition affects us more than previously thought. It has been shown to help regulate blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol levels, reduce bowel inflammation, and improve digestion. Although probiotic and prebiotic supplements are abundantly available and convenient, they are not necessary to use because you can find them in everyday food. One thing most people don’t know is in order to reap the benefits of probiotics you must consume prebiotics as well. The research on the effectiveness and safety of probiotics and prebiotics continues to grow, but there are multiple known health benefits thus far. So, what are they exactly?
Probiotics are health-promoting bacteria (live cultures) found in fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, kimchi, and kombucha. These cultures are similar to the bacteria naturally found in our GI system. They help to change or repopulate bacteria in GI to keep balance in your gut flora. This helps to boost GI health and reduce bowel inflammation. Probiotics can be helpful in managing GI distress and IBS.
Unlike probiotics, prebiotics are not living organisms. They are non-digestible fibers that are consumed by probiotics and broken down into short-chain fatty acids. They help promote the growth of helpful bacteria (probiotics) in your gut. They are found in foods like bananas, onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, artichokes, soybeans and whole-wheat products.
Probiotics and prebiotics work together to promote a healthy, balanced gut flora. They should be consumed through food, rather than supplement for the most nutritional benefit. Try combinations like bananas with yogurt, or artichokes with tempeh as an easy way to consume both probiotics and prebiotics. Incorporating health-promoting probiotics and prebiotics into your day is key for a healthy gut.
Check out these recipes for some inspiration of ways to use probiotic and prebiotic foods:
Tempeh and Broccoli Stir Fry – Dietitian Debbie Dishes
Berry-Kefier Smoothie – Eating Well
French Onion Dip – Kitchn
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