You probably have heard of probiotics and prebiotics, but do you know the difference between them? Research has shown that probiotics and prebiotics could improve digestive health, immunity, and more. Both probiotics and prebiotics are available in the form of dietary supplements: as pills, cleanses, and powders. What is surprising is that probiotics and prebiotics can be found in food you may already eat everyday. Eating probiotics and prebiotics from food is always the best route because your body will absorb them like a sponge. Alike anything else related to health and medicine, probiotics and prebiotics need more research to find out how effective they are in relationship with digestive health and other health benefits. One thing we know for certain is that not all bacteria are bad! They can be helpful to our health, especially our guts!
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are considered to be “good” bacteria that benefit your digestive system by controlling the growth of good bacteria. Lactobacillus is one of the most popular strains you may have heard on TV commercials for yogurt. Probiotics are considered to be “live cultures” or living bacteria. These strains of living bacteria already reside within your digestive system. There are billions of them! Taking probiotics in the form of a dietary supplement or eating foods containing probiotics help to repopulate, or balance, the bacteria in your digestive system. Some doctors will recommend taking a probiotic supplement to help prevent frequent vaginal yeast infections. Taking a probiotic dietary supplement helped me personally in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Food Sources of Probiotics
These foods listed are considered to be fermented foods. The fermentation of foods is needed to produce the good bacteria, or probiotics. There are no foods that contain both probiotic and prebiotic.
- Cultured yogurt, basically any yogurt
- Miso Soup
- Soft Cheeses, such as Gouda
- sourdough bread
What are Prebiotics?
This may sound a little weird, but prebiotics are important for digestive health. Prebiotics are food to feed the probiotics/good bacteria in your digestive system. Prebiotics are natural, indigestible carbohydrates (also called, inulin) that promote healthy bacteria in your gut. If you’re into science, prebiotics include these carbohydrates: fructooligosaccharides and galactooligosaccharides. Cool, huh?
Food sources of Prebiotics:
- Whole wheat foods
- soybeans and legumes
How They Work Together
Probiotics and prebiotics work together to make you healthier. Unfortunately, there are not any foods which contain both probiotics and prebiotics together, but you can make some tasty food combinations to include them both. Good examples could be vanilla Greek yogurt topped with bananas and granola, leek soup and a side of sourdough bread, or grilled cheese (soft cheeses) sandwich with whole wheat bread, or cook sauerkraut adding onions and garlic to the mix. If your interested in taking a probiotic and/or prebiotic supplement, you can get products that combine the two together, they are called synbiotics. Make sure to check with your health care provider first before taking any dietary supplements. Stay healthy, friends!