Both prebiotics and probiotics are important for our health.
Prebiotics are substances that come from types of carbohydrates (mostly fibre) that we can’t digest and that feed the friendly bacteria in our digestive system.
Probiotics are live bacteria found in certain foods or supplements which provide numerous health benefits.
Eating balanced amounts of both prebiotics and probiotics can help ensure that we have the right balance of these bacteria to keep our gut bacteria healthy. The gut bacteria (also referred to as gut flora or gut microbiota) perform many important functions in our body. They provide important nutrition to the cells lining our digestive tract and help protect us from harmful bacteria and fungi.
The food we eat plays an important role in the balance of good and bad gut bacteria. For example, a high sugar and high fat diet negatively influences the gut bacteria and may contribute to insulin resistance and other conditions. Chemical residues and antibiotics may also disrupt balance in the gut bacteria.
Many foods naturally contain prebiotics as prebiotics are types of fibre found in vegetables, fruits and legumes. Whilst humans are not able to digest these types of fibre, our good gut bacteria can digest them. These types of fibre provide nutrients to the bacteria that support healthy digestion and immune function. Foods that are high in prebiotic fibre include legumes, beans, peas, oats, bananas, berries, asparagus, garlic, leeks and onions.
There are also many probiotic foods that naturally contain helpful bacteria. A high quality, plain yoghurt with live cultures can be a great addition to our diet if we want to add beneficial bacteria. Another great option is fermented foods as they contain beneficial bacteria that thrive on the naturally occurring sugar or fibre in the food. Fermented food sources include sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, kefir and pickled vegetables.
Keeping our gut bacteria balanced is important for many aspects of our health; and by eating prebiotic and probiotic foods, we can help create the most ideal balance between good and bad gut bacteria.