I previously posted on Probiotics and Prebiotics and how they work. Today we’ll discuss what foods are good sources of probiotics and prebiotics.
The bottom line is that we all have bacteria in our intestines. We want to maintain the right balance of good bacteria for the health of our intestines and for our immune system. Things that upset the balance include antibiotics as well as the presence of disease causing bacteria.
When the microbial balance is off in the intestines, it can result in diarrhea or can cause inflammation of irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, tooth decay or stomach infections.
Sources of Probiotics:
Probiotic containing foods are commonly found and consumed in Japan and Europe. In the US, several probiotic- and prebiotic-containing foods have recently been introduced to the grocery store.
Probiotic microorganisms can be found in both supplement form and as components of foods and beverages. I usually recommend using probiotics in food form. I recommend avoiding the supplement form unless a physician or dietitian has specifically recommended them for a particular condition.
If you are currently receiving treatment for cancer, It’s especially important to check with your physician before taking pill or supplement forms of probiotics as you may have low blood counts or increased risk of infection.
Foods that contain probiotics (helpful bacteria such as Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria):
- Yogurt (Almost all yogurts contain "active cultures")
- Buttermilk (Tastes good if you like drinking sour cream!)
- Kefir (I have tried this and it is very good, watch the serving size though because of added sugars)
- Kim Chi (Korean side dish)
- Sauerkraut (on potatoes with sour cream, Yum!)
Sources of Prebiotics:
Prebiotics are found naturally in many foods, and can also be isolated from plants (e.g., chicory root) or made in a factory. Specific names of prebiotics include Inulin, Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), Polydextrose and Arabinogalactan.
Food that naturally contain prebiotics (things that feed healthy bacteria):
- Other whole grains
- Greens (especially dandelion greens, but also spinach, collard greens, chard, kale, and mustard greens)
- Berries, bananas, and other fruit
- Legumes (lentils, kidney beans, chickpeas, navy beans, white beans, black beans, etc.)
When probiotics and prebiotics are taken together they are called “synbiotics.” Both work together in a synergistic fashion which more efficiently promotes the probiotic’s benefits. Some yogurts contain both and when you eat a meal that contains a cultured probiotic and include prebiotic foods, you have created your own synbiotic!
Eat your biotics!
"Functional Foods Fact Sheet: Probiotics and Prebiotics"
"An Introduction to Probiotics"
"Prebiotics and Probiotics: What are they and why should I eat them?"
Yogurt? This might be useful if you want to process milk better, but if you are otherwise vegan, it seems like yogurt would be useless to help you process complex starches better. There is a world of difference between digesting lactic acid and digesting whole grains and legumes. If you are trying to remove sugars from your diet it can be important to pick the right source.
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