“Pre” and “Pro?” No, it’s not a typo! As you embark on a probiotic lifestyle, it’s equally important to incorporate prebiotics into your diet.
Probiotics are live microorganisms that when consumed in the right amounts confer a health benefit to the host. Lactobacillus cultures are the most common probiotic found in fermented vegetables. A growing body of scientific research is documenting the diverse ways that probiotics can contribute to human health.
“Prebiotic” was originally defined as a “non-digestible food ingredient that beneficially affects the host by selectively stimulating the growth and/or activity of one or a limited number of bacteria in the colon, and thus improves host health. Scientists researching the value of prebiotics in treating disease conditions have more recently described a prebiotic as a selectively fermented ingredient that, when fermented (digested) by gut microbiota, allows specific changes, both in the composition and/or activity in the microbiome that confers benefits upon the host’s well-being and health.” To be a prebiotic, the food ingredient must:
- Resist digestion processes in the stomach and intestine
- Be digestible (fermentable) by the GI microbiota
- Stimulate the growth or activity of the intestinal microbiota, and
- Confer a health benefit on the host
Prebiotics lay the foundation for maximizing the benefits of probiotics included in the diet by providing the best possible food material to nourish and support the life cycles of beneficial probiotic gut bacteria. They maintain, balance and diversity of intestinal bacteria. Prebiotics and probiotics functioning together create a digestive environment, which optimizes good health in the body.
How Do I Eat More Prebiotic Foods?
- Eat more fiber rich plant foods, which have a prebiotic effect. Nutritionists have spoken of the need for fiber in a healthy diet for years. “Dietary fiber” is historically defined as “a carbohydrate that does not contribute much in the way of food energy (calories), even though it is often included in the calculation of total food energy just as though it were a sugar. Further contemporary research shows that although fiber may not translate directly into calories through our own digestion processes, fiber provides a nutrient base for our gut flora to grow and thrive.
- Know about prebiotic “superfoods,” which include soybeans, chicory root, unrefined grains, and oats, garlic, Jerusalem artichoke, jicama and dandelion greens.
- Pair prebiotic and probiotic foods togethersuch ashummus with pickles, beans and brown rice topped with sauerkraut and an egg sandwich on sprouted bread with kimchi.
- Look for high-fiber opportunities within your existing daily habits. If you start your day with a power smoothie, make sure its fiber rich (throw some green leaves in or a scoop of fiber supplement). And if you drink green juice, by all means, save that fiber to incorporate into soups which can be blended into a delicious veggie bisque to enjoy for lunch, alongside sauerkraut.
Consider prebiotics as the primer and probiotics the paint. Think of prebiotics as a stepladder for probiotics to raise higher in helping support your body’s existing microbiome become a more diverse and healthy colony. Or simply think of prebiotics as incredibly healthy and nourishing food for the probiotics that support your microbiome.
Eating Probiotic-Rich Foods to to Fortify and Nurture Microbiome Health is another great read to continue your journey towards better health.