Probiotics and prebiotics are both pretty much-discussed topics in nutrition these days. Both of them help support the immune system, yet even though they sound similar, the two play different roles for your health. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria, while prebiotics is food for these bacteria. Let’s have a look at them in detail.
Prebiotics are non-digestible food fibers that stimulate the growth and activity of healthy bacteria in the intestines. These are found naturally in bananas, onions, garlic, wheat, oatmeal, barley, tomatoes, flax seeds, greens and legumes. Before you go out and buy expensive prebiotic supplements, remember that many foods naturally contain them.
That’s because prebiotics is types of fiber found in vegetables, fruits, and legumes. These types of fiber are not digestible by humans, but your good gut bacteria can digest them.
Foods that are high in prebiotic fiber include:
- Legumes, beans, and peas
- Jerusalem artichokes (not the same as regular artichokes)
- Dandelion greens
One of the things your good gut bacteria do with prebiotic fiber is turned it into a short-chain fatty acid called butyrate. Butyrate has been extensively studied and has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects inside the colon (15Trusted Source). It may also influence gene expression, block the growth of cancerous cells and help provide fuel to healthy cells so that they can grow and divide normally.
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are beneficial for the digestive system and health. These provide protection against harmful bacteria in the intestines. They also reduce the bad effects of antibiotics in the stomach. Yogurt and other fermented dairy products are a good source of probiotics.
There are also many probiotic foods that naturally contain helpful bacteria, such as yogurt. A high-quality, plain yogurt with live cultures can be a fantastic addition to your diet if you want to add beneficial bacteria.
Fermented foods are another great option, as they contain beneficial bacteria that thrive on the naturally occurring sugar or fiber in the food.
Examples of fermented foods include:
- Kombucha tea
- Kefir (dairy and non-dairy)
- Some types of pickles (non-pasteurized)
- Other pickled vegetables (non-pasteurized)
If you are going to eat fermented foods for their probiotic benefits, make sure they are not pasteurized, as this process kills the bacteria. Some of those foods can also be considered synbiotic because they contain both beneficial bacteria and a prebiotic source of fiber for the bacteria to feed on. One example of a synbiotic food is sauerkraut.
Keeping your gut bacteria balanced is important for many aspects of health. To do this, eat plenty of prebiotic and probiotic foods, as they will help promote the most ideal balance between good and bad gut bacteria.
Prebiotics are types of fiber that humans cannot digest, but your gut bacteria can. These types of fiber provide nutrients to the bacteria that support healthy digestion and immune function. Probiotic foods naturally contain helpful bacteria. Many of these foods can be made at home or purchased at a grocery store.
At the end of the day, optimizing your gut flora may have major benefits for your health.