By now, most people have heard the terms either prebiotics or probiotics. Unfortunately, the place we might have heard these terms might be from food or supplement advertisements on television. What are they and how do they work?
First, know that current research is growing and growing on both prebiotics and probiotics and will for years to come. More information is needed to accurately depict what both are and the role of them in our bodies. One thing we all can count on while research is being performed is change and new discovery.
Right now researchers believe that certain functional foods may improve health, like prebiotics and probiotics. Prebiotics and probiotics are commonly found in our everyday foods. Although they are available in supplement form, we should put our focus on foods in which they are naturally found. Food sources are more readily digested and absorbed.
Probiotics are “good” bacteria that help your digestive system. They help to control the levels of “bad” bacteria in the digestive tract. Probiotics are the live cultures like the ones that are naturally occurring in your gut. Probiotics replenish the “good” bacteria to maintain a balance in the overall gut flora. It may boost immunity and gastrointestinal health. Research is still ongoing for allergy symptoms, irritable bowel syndrome, lactose intolerance and more.
Prebiotics are carbohydrates that do not break down during the digestion process but are food to feed the probiotics. It appears that prebiotics fuel the probiotics to keep the digestive system healthy and may increase the absorption of calcium.
Food Sources for Prebiotics & Probiotics
Prebiotics are found in foods that include asparagus, artichokes, onions, garlic, leeks, bananas, oatmeal, whole wheat foods and legumes. Probiotics’ best source is found in yogurt with live cultures. However, probiotics can also be found in sauerkraut, kimchi, miso soup, fermented soft cheeses, and sourdough bread. No food source contains both prebiotics and probiotics.
Although more research is needed to pinpoint how much prebiotics or probiotics are needed in our diets and to determine what health benefits they provide, most can safely add these food sources to their diet.