Gut health is getting attention from every direction! With the spotlight on the digestive system, how can you be sure that yours is healthy and happy? Let’s focus our discussion towards two gut helpers- prebiotics and probiotics.
Differences Between Probiotics and Prebiotics
Probiotics: The National Institutes of Health defines probiotics as live microorganisms (specifically, bacteria) that are intended to have health benefits. Lactobacillus in yogurt is an example of good bacteria in yogurt, this makes yogurt a probiotic food. A few examples of the benefits these bacteria offer us are digestion of our food, destroying disease-causing microorganisms, and producing vitamins.
Prebiotics: The National Institutes of Health defines prebiotics as dietary substances that favor the growth of beneficial bacteria over harmful ones.
Prebiotics and probiotics work together to help your gut flourish. A probiotic has the ability to help increase the good, beneficial bacteria in your gut, but it needs a fuel source to do this effectively. Prebiotics are like food for a probiotic.
What type of bacteria is best?
Unfortunately, there’s no definitive recommended amount of how much you need of one particular bacteria or another in your gut. Everyone’s gut bacteria varies and is constantly changing – it’s a living thing and you’ll frequently hear it referred to as “the microbiome”. The research on the microbiome is relatively new and is a popular area of study. A healthy microbiome is being linked to improving your overall health and wellness, including mental health. Because of this, we’ve seen a huge rise in interest in probiotic supplements and pre and probiotic food products. When it comes to your diet, your digestive system will be most helped if you intentionally choose prebiotics and probiotics in your diet each day (they do not necessarily need to be consumed at the same meal).
Probiotic foods are foods that have been fermented or
cultured and contain gut-friendly bacteria. Examples of probiotic foods are
yogurt, kefir (liquid yogurt drink), sauerkraut, tempeh (a type of tofu),
kimchi, sourdough bread, miso, kombucha (a fermented drink), pickles, and some
cheeses like Gouda, mozzarella, and cheddar.
Some of these foods are easy to incorporate as a quick snack, others
take some more preparation and planning.
Prebiotic foods contain an ingredient that is indigestible
in our gut, but that probiotics can break down and digest. It can be hard to determine if a food
contains prebiotics just by looking at the nutrition label. Prebiotics may be added to granola bars,
breads, cereals, etc. Some terms you may see on a label that indicate a
prebiotic food are inulin, pectin, beta-glucan, fructooligosaccharides
(FOS), and flavanols. The
following foods contain prebiotics and can help feed the probiotics you
consume: garlic, onion, leeks, asparagus, greens (chard, frisse, kale, endive),
bananas, barley, oats, apples, cocoa, flaxseed, jicama, wheat bran,
legumes (lentil, beans, peas), and berries.
Prebiotic + Probiotic
= Gut friendly, microbiome helping deliciousness
Here are a few ways to include prebiotic and probiotic foods into your diet
- Throw a handful of berries (1/4 cup) and a dash of flax seed (2 tsp) on top of yogurt (3/4 cup)
- Combine a cut-up banana (1 banana), yogurt (3/4 cup), and dark chocolate shavings (1 oz chocolate) for a decadent snack.
- Slice an apple (1 apple) and pair with Gouda cheese (1 ounce) for a savory and sweet combination
Or as part of a meal:
- Overnight oatswith kefir – throw some bananas, berries, or apples in for a prebiotic boost
- Light lunch or side for dinner, add shredded mozzarella for your probiotic – Roasted kale, asparagus, and chickpea salad
- Potato leek soup, serve with warm sourdough bread
- To start your meal, try Miso soup with kale and tofu