Many of us have heard the word “probiotics.” In fact, many of us would even be able to associate probiotics with our gut or stomach. But what do they do? How do they help our stomach and digestion, and what the heck are prebiotics?
Probiotics are live bacterial cultures that help to keep our gut healthy. Probiotics help with digestion, absorption of nutrients, and immune function. Probiotics are found in fermented foods like kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, pickles, miso, tempeh, natto, and kimchi. Probiotics can also be found in dairy products such as yogurt. One reason why we are encouraged to eat more yogurt, (how many of us have watched Activia commercials with Jamie Lee Curtis?) and certain soft, fermented cheese. Probiotics are now being manufactured into supplement form.
Prebiotics are fiber, that basically work as a ‘fertilizer’ for the probiotics. Meaning, while the probiotics, or “good bacteria,” is working it’s way into the gut, prebiotics are helping the probiotics multiply, grow, and improve the amount of good bacteria in the gut. Interestingly, the body doesn’t digest prebiotics. It simply utilizes them to propagate probiotics in the digestive system.
Although both pre and probiotics work together to improve gut health, they are not found in the same foods. If you’re looking to add both to your diet without utilizing food sources, both can be found in supplement form. However, the Registered Dietitian Nutritionists’ on the B.Komplete Team strongly recommend food first – before supplements. Dietary supplements are not tested by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration like medications. And the probiotic strains in the supplements may not be specific for the condition you’re looking to treat. Always tell your Physician what you are doing that may affect your health, and schedule an appointment with a RDN on our team.
Foods Rich in Probiotics:
Yogurt: Yogurt is the number one source of probiotics. However, this only applies if the label specifically says “active live cultures.” Any pasteurization or sterilization can kill the bacteria and therefore there’s no good bacteria left.
Sauerkraut: Also known as lacto-fermented cabbage, and when unpasteurized, contains Lactobacillus bacteria (good bacteria). In this state, it actually contained more probiotics than yogurt.
Miso Soup: A very popular item on a Japanese restaurant menu, this soup is made with miso paste, an Asian seasoning made by fermenting a mixture of soybeans, barley, brown rice and several other grains with a fungus, Aspergillus oryzae. Miso is a healthy, probiotic food that helps support digestion by adding beneficial microorganisms to your digestive tract.
Kefir: Similar to yogurt, there’s kefir, a fermented and cultured beverage, with a characteristic tart taste. For those with a dairy intolerance, kefir can be a good choice. Interestingly enough, a study done by Ohio State University, found that drinking kefir can reduce gas and bloating brought on by lactose consumption by almost 70%.
Pickles: Cucumbers that have been “pickled” in a solution of salt and water, using their own lactic acid bacteria, they are left to ferment, which turns them sour and a source of probiotics. Pickles are a good source of vitamin K too, although they are high in sodium, something to watch out for.
Foods Rich in Prebiotics:
Jerusalem Artichoke: Interestingly, Jerusalem artichoke has actually nothing to do with artichoke, with the exception of its heart’s flavor. Jerusalem artichoke is loaded with prebiotics as well as potassium and iron. And, they are easy to prepare!
Bananas: A convenient food, that has fiber and potassium.
Oats: Healthy grains with the added bonus of prebiotics. Oats contain beta-glucan fiber, which is what increases healthy gut bacteria, as well as antioxidants, which means they have anti-inflammatory effects.
Legumes: Also great sources of protein and iron. Some common legumes include; lentils, kidneys, and chickpeas. Legumes have the right amount of fiber to boost healthy gut flora.
How much do you need?
At present, the verdict is out on exactly how much we need to consume, however some of the regulatory and scientific groups have put forward, per day figures of:
- Dietary fiber: 25-38 grams
If you are not used to eating a diet that is rich in fiber, start slowly. Try adding 1 new food each day for a week that provides a good source of fiber. You can gradually increase each week.
We truly hope this blog post was helpful, and inspires you to add a source of pre and/or probiotic fiber into your daily food plan. Here at B.Komplete we believe in a healthy and balanced approach to eating. Let us know in the comment section what you try!