Prebiotics and probiotics are becoming increasingly recognized as food components with wide-reaching health benefits. Research shows that they mainly support the health and functioning of your gut, but they also indirectly boost immunity, brain health, and even improve metabolic health.
Probiotics are live microorganisms (usual bacteria) found in some yogurts, kimchi, miso, sauerkraut, and other fermented foods. However, you’ll also find them being sold as supplements. Prebiotics are indigestible dietary fibers that “feed” gut bacteria. Examples of probiotics include Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum, and an example of a prebiotic is fructooligosaccharides abundant in onions, chicory root, and bananas.
If you’re interested in how you could introduction more prebiotics and probiotics into your diet, consider these 5 simple ways.
1. Make Yogurt Your Staple
Yogurt is an easy-to-find, affordable, and versatile source of probiotics. Different brands of yogurt will have different strains of probiotic bacteria, but they usually contain either lactic acid or various strains of Bifidobacterium, all of which are good for health.
Daily yogurt intake was found to improve glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity in one 2018 study published in Nutrients. But there are, of course, other benefits that come with regular yogurt intake, like regular bowel movements, a stronger immune system, and reduced inflammation.
Ways you could eat yogurt include as is, mixed into a smoothie, or turned into a salad dressing. But whatever you do, just make sure not to heat yogurt as heating destroys its probiotic bacteria.
2. Eat a Prebiotic Food Every Day
There are many natural sources of prebiotics out there, so there’s really no need to take it in supplement form. Great examples include:
Combining these foods with a source of probiotics can have an even greater impact on your health as prebiotic generally support the growth of probiotic bacteria. A great example is adding berries to yogurt a smoothie or making overnight oats with yogurt. You should also consider making prebiotic-rich dinners like braised artichokes or this low-carb French onion soup.
3. Focus on Fermented Plants
Many fermented plant foods happen to be a natural source of probiotic bacteria. Kimchi, which is a Korean fermented vegetable food, is a scientifically-proven source of probiotics, for example, The same applies to:
- Miso paste
As with yogurt, you’ll have to eat these fresh and not cooked if you want to gain any benefits from their probiotics. Luckily, most of these items are tasty on their own and safe to eat as they are. They’re pretty easy to find nowadays at most convenience and health food stores, but you can easily make some of these at home as well.
4. Get a Synbiotic to Save Time
A “synbiotic” is a mixture of prebiotics and probiotics. They provide the best of both worlds in one product, but they also make it easier for probiotic bacteria to survive in the product and reach your GI tract intact.
An example of a synbiotic is yogurt containing Bifidobacteria and fructooligosaccharides (FOS). You might also find supplements claiming to be synbiotics.
What’s great about these products is that they take out much of the guesswork and trouble of trying to add both to your diet. However, it is possible to make your own synbiotic preparation at home. For instance, a banana yogurt smoothie can be considered a symbiotic since bananas contain FOS, while yogurt contains probiotics.
5. Consider Supplements
While not the best way to add beneficial bacteria and fiber to your diet, supplements can be quite convenient in situations where it’s hard to get these beneficial compounds.
For instance, if you’re frequently traveling, camping, or don’t have access to a store or refrigerator for any other reason, a synbiotic, probiotic, or fiber supplement can come in handy. These are usually pretty shelf-stable at room temperature and may come in pill or powder form. They’re also portable and easy to use.
Probiotics and prebiotics work in synergy to support your gut and overall health. But getting them on a daily basis is essential if you want to gain any of their promised health benefits, ranging from more regular bowel movements to better brain functioning.
These 5 simple tips can help you add more of both to your daily menu. Just remember that probiotics can’t survive heat treatment, so you’ll need to consume them from fresh food. And as far as prebiotics go, just make sure to consume them with enough water as these are soluble fibers and work best when mixed with fluids.