Pre- and probiotics have long been praised for their multitude of health benefits. Before we dig into our favourite food sources, let's quickly recap what these are and why we want them!
|What is it?
||"Good", live bacteria that controls the growth of harmful bacteria in your digestive system.
||Food and fertiliser for your good bacteria.
|How does it benefit us?
Vitamin K production (essential for normal blood-clotting) and immune system functions are greatly improved by probiotics, which also prevents harmful bacteria and yeast colonies from forming. Frequently prescribed for patients on an antibiotic regimen.
|Both directly from the bacteria themselves or indirectly by the organic acids produced through fermentation. These prebiotic fibers are indigestible and leave the digestive tract largely unaltered.
Yogurt is an excellent source of calcium, potassium, and protein. It is also the primary vehicle for most people. Look for varieties with no additional ingredients such as sugar, carrageenan, or corn starch, and at least five different bacterial strains. This gives your body the opportunity to incorporate those strains that will bring the most benefits to your digestive system.
Keep in mind that non-fat varieties may have fewer calories than full-fat, but as fat is necessary for proper coagulation during the fermentation process, many companies that produce non-fat versions add thickeners (such as carrageenan, gelatin, and starch) which can counter the benefits of natural probiotics.
This fermented milk drink is very similar to yogurt, but is produced from different bacterial strains contained in kefir "grains" which include yeast. Those who don't digest yogurt well may have better luck with kefir as it breaks down the lactose present in milk more efficiently than most yogurt. Both yogurt and kefir can easily be made at home with minimal investment in time and materials.
High in prebiotic fiber, they also offer plenty of potassium, vitamin C and B6, as well as manganese. Runners and endurance athletes swear by bananas for a reason. While most of the other foods listed tend to be a bit strong in flavour and not to everyone's tastes, bananas are sweet, fantastic raw, dried, or cooked, and are one of the best sources of prebiotics for children.
An incredible source of probiotics, fiber, calcium, vitamin C, potassium, and manganese (whew!), sauerkraut is a super-star in the nutrition world. It is a fantastic side dish, pairs well with many meats and vegetables, and is easy to make at home from sliced cabbage, vinegar, and salt. The fermentation process takes anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks, so plan ahead. If you are on a sodium-restricted diet, you should eat sauerkraut cautiously with approval from your doctor or nutritionist.
This traditional fermented Korean side dish has a delicate and spicy flavor. It is high in fiber, vitamins A and C, probiotics, and antioxidants. Made from fermented cruciferous vegetables (usually napa cabbage, radish, scallion, or cucumber), kimchi is a delightful alternative to sauerkraut, though it is also somewhat high in sodium.
Artichoke and asparagus are high in magnesium, potassium, vitamin C, manganese, while remaining low in calories and loaded with prebiotics. Onions, leeks, and shallots feed your probiotic bacteria for very few calories. And while raw onion does have slightly higher health benefits, eating cooked onion has less effect on your breath.
Garlic adds flavor, builds up healthy probiotic colonies, and has a multitude of other health benefits, including reducing high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Garlic is also believed to shorten the duration of some illnesses such as colds and on-going studies researching garlic's effects on cancer cells in the colon are showing promise.
Probiotics add beneficial bacteria to your gastrointestinal tract, and prebiotics help your existing good bacteria grow and multiply. Eat a serving or two of each type every day to keep your digestive tract in tip-top shape.
We're certainly not the only ones who love pre and probiotics! Read our interview with Carla Oates
, better known as The Beauty Chef, who started an entire line of inner and outer beauty products on her belief that digestive health and probiotics play a huge role in skin health.