You've probably heard that prebiotics and probiotics are very good for your guts, but what exactly are they? How do they work, and in which foods can you find them?
What are Prebiotics?
Prebiotics are natural, indigestible dietary fibers that promote the growth of “good” bacteria in your gut - by producing nutrients called short-chain fatty acids. Those improve gastrointestinal (GI) health and when being absorbed into the bloodstream, they enhance metabolic health and potentially increase calcium absorption.
Prebiotics include fructooligosaccharides, such as inulin and galactooligosaccharides. However, rather than focusing on those long complex words, you could start by adding prebiotics to your diet by eating more oats, dandelion greens, bananas, garlic, onions, leeks, soybeans, asparagus, Jerusalem artichoke, barley, whole-wheat grains, apples, cocoa, seaweed, and flaxseeds.
You should keep in mind that some of the fiber content of these foods may be altered during cooking, so try to consume them raw rather than cooked for increased benefits.
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are the “good” bacteria or live microorganisms just like the ones found in the intestine. They help repopulate and balance intestinal gut flora, boost immunity, and improve the health of the GI tract. For that reason, probiotics have been used for treating the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome like bloating, flatulence, cramps and bouts of diarrhea and/or constipation.
You can find probiotics in fermented dairy products which contain live cultures (bifidobacteria and lactobacilli) including yogurt, kefir, traditional buttermilk and aged cheeses. Another source would be non-dairy products including kimchi, kombucha, natto,sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, pickles and cultured non-dairy yogurts.
Foods that combine both prebiotics and probiotics are symbiotic. Examples of those would be banana on yoghurt or asparagus with tempeh.
Prebiotics and probiotics work together in synergy to restore and improve the GI tract health, but they also promote cardiovascular and brain health.
As a matter of fact, studies have shown that when people take probiotics’ supplements, their anxiety levels, perception of stress, and mental outlook improve compared with people who do not. Some studies even suggest that probiotics might lead to better-looking skin.
Although you can incorporate prebiotics and probiotics from natural everyday ingredients mentioned previously, there are available dietary supplements readily available at pharmacies. In conclusion, prebiotics and probiotics improve overall health and wellbeing if integrated safely into your diet.