Follow Your Gut: Why You Need Probiotics + Prebiotics
These days, trendy foods are simply trendy for their looks. More often than not, when you look closer at the hottest foods, you’ll find that there’s a health benefit associated to their rise in popularity (think smoothie bowls and golden milk). Digestive health is a huge trend this year, and with the rise of kombucha, apple cider vinegar concoctions and more, the word “probiotic” has begun to make its way into our everyday health vocabulary. And so has prebiotic. We break down the difference between the two, why they’re important to include in your diet and the best foods to buy to up your intake.
Probiotics vs. Prebiotics
Though they sound similar and work together, probiotics and prebiotics serve different functions. Probiotics are good bacteria found in certain foods that live in your gut, whereas prebiotics are the “food” for the good gut bacteria and come from fiber. Both help establish the right balance of good and bad gut bacteria to support better health and help reduce the risk of disease.
Probiotics are awesome protectors. They fight inflammation and support the digestive and immune systems while also protecting your body from harmful bacteria and fungi. These bacteria can also create something called short-chain fatty acids, which help sustain a strong gut barrier to block harmful substances, viruses and bacteria. Where food comes in is how you feed the good or bad bacteria in your body. Studies show that a diet high in sugar and fat content helps those bad substances increase and outnumber the good bacteria that fight them. The better the balance between the two, the healthier your gut and the healthier you’ll be.
Prebiotics are the fuel. These are fibers that we can’t digest without good gut bacteria. They help feed the good bacteria and help them grow and flourish. Once broken down, they can become a type of short-chain fatty acids in the colon that regulate inflammation.
How to get them in your diet:
While you can simply take supplements after checking in with your doctor, you can also find plenty of probiotics and prebiotics in healthy foods found at any grocery store. So if kombucha isn’t your cup of tea (literally), there’s plenty of other options to choose from.
Probiotics: The most common source of probiotics is yogurt because of the live cultures found in it. Remember, though, watch the sugar. Opt for plain yogurt. Fermented foods like sauerkraut, pickled vegetables and kimchi are also a great source of probiotics. Make sure they’re unpasteurized, though, because pasteurization kills the good bacteria you want.
Prebiotics: Prebiotics can be found in a number of foods that you can incorporate into any meal of the day. Both bananas and oats are good sources of prebiotics (morning oatmeal, anyone?) and so are legumes like beans and lentils — perfect for a hearty soup. Berries are also high in prebiotic fiber, making them a great snack or sweet treat to top off your meal.