What are Probiotics and Prebiotics?
You may ask, why did I add the picture of a yogurt parfait cup with granola oats and berries? It will make sense soon.
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for your health, especially your digestive system. We usually think of bacteria as something that causes diseases. But our body is full of bacteria, both good and bad.
Probiotics are often called “good” or “helpful” bacteria because they help keep your digestive system healthy by controlling growth of harmful bacteria.
Sources of Probiotics. One of the best familiar sources of probiotics, for example, is yogurt. It has good bacteria like lactobacillus. However, not all yogurts you see on the shelf are rich on live probiotic cultures. Look for “live or active cultures” on the label to be sure your favorite brand of yogurt is a rich source of probiotics.
Buttermilk, another fermented product, contains probiotics.
You may have heard about or seen probiotic milk. It is milk that has probiotics added to it. Milk alone is not a natural source of probiotics.
Most soy and almond milk brands do not have significant amounts of probiotics. However, there are brands of both that are fortified with probiotics. Just look for “probiotics” on the label or any reference to live or active cultures.
Other good food sources are those that are fermented such as sauerkraut, miso soup, fermented soft cheeses (like Gouda), or sourdough baked goods.
The common feature of all these foods is fermentation, a process that produces probiotics.
Prebiotics on the other hand are carbohydrates that cannot be digested by the human body. But they are food for probiotics and help nourish them in our intestines to maintain a healthy amount and keep our digestive system in balance. Remember, probiotics are live cultures of ‘good’ bacteria.
Foods rich in prebiotics include whole grains, asparagus, artichokes, bananas, oatmeal, honey, garlic, onions, legumes, and many more you can find in: The 19 Best Prebiotic Foods You Should Eat
What foods, if any, have both prebiotics and probiotics in them?
Foods, as described, that contain probiotics and prebiotics. are very different. As such, there is no food that contains both. You can find supplements that contain probiotics and prebiotics together, but they are not highly recommended as the fiber in the prebiotic foods play an important role in the digestion process.
Health Benefits of Pro- and Prebiotics
The primary benefit of probiotics and prebiotics combined is that they interact beneficially to maintain a healthy and balanced digestive system.
For example, if we don’t eat foods rich in prebiotics (whole grains, bananas . . . ), the level of probiotics (live bacteria in yoghurt, fermented foods, . . .) may fall. While it’s unclear exactly what effect that may have on any individual, we do know that it’s important to keep the right balance between good and harmful bacteria in our digestive system.
Probiotics health benefits: There is some evidence that eating yogurt may help prevent vaginal yeast infections. Some doctors recommend this to help prevent infections in women who have them frequently.
Yogurt, in addition to one of the best probiotic-rich foods, is also an excellent source of lean protein and calcium.
Eating yogurt may help with certain types of diarrhea. By replenishing the good bacteria that may have been lost, yogurt can help bring the good and bad bacteria back in balance.
Although more research is needed, there is some evidence that probiotics might help:
- Treat diarrhea, especially after taking certain antibiotics
- Treat irritable bowel syndrome
- Speed treatment of certain intestinal infections
- Prevent or reduce the severity of colds and flu
- Ease allergic disorders such as eczema and hay fever
- Lower LDL “bad” cholesterol.
Probiotics and prebiotics are also being studied for effectiveness and safety in other diseases, such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
NOTE: Since probiotics or prebiotics or both come in supplemental forms, they are not an appropriate replacement of prescribed medications. You should not stop taking your medications without talking to your doctor
Prebiotic foods are also a great source of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients to give us energy and vital to overall health.
Barring any food allergies, a well-balanced healthy diet should include pro- and prebiotic rich foods to maintain a balanced digestive system and overall healthy nutrition.
Probiotic rich foods, such as fat-free yogurt with ‘live active bacteria’, and foods rich in prebiotics like whole grains, bananas, legumes, and more are certainly heart-healthy and may help lower cholesterol.
If you don’t like yoghurt or milk products, seek out other fermented food sources like sourdough bread, sauerkraut, miso soup.
Now you understand why a yogurt parfait with’live and active cultures’ and granola/oats, including a banana and berries is a perfect balanced and nutritious pro- and prebiotic healthy breakfast to start the day!