More and more research is supporting the role of gut health in our overall wellbeing. When it comes to how you eat, there are many factors that can support your gut health. But two nutrients that are well-known for their impact on the gut are probiotics and prebiotics. Today, we look at how these nutrients can keep your tummy happy and healthy.
What are probiotics and prebiotics?
Probiotics are good bacteria and micro-organisms that can take up residence in your gut and support your general health. By putting good bacteria into your gut, you can support not only digestive health, but also immunity, mental health and optimising your nutrient absorption. One way to think of probiotics is that they are like seeds that you plant in your gut.
If probiotics are like seeds in the gut, prebiotics are the mulch that nourishes the seeds. Prebiotics are a type of fibre that is not absorbed by the human body, but instead fuel the good bacteria of the gut.
Where can I find probiotics and prebiotics in food?
Once upon a time, they were plentiful in the foods that were consumed daily. But now we are consuming more processed foods, it’s important to consciously add them into your food plan.
Probiotics can be found in fermented food and drinks such as:
- Yoghurts with live cultures (pick a natural, unflavoured option)
- Kefir – both milk and water varieties
- Pickled vegetables
The important thing to remember is to check if the food or drink is still ‘live’. This means that it has not been heat-treated, and still contains the good bacteria that are made during the fermentation process.
On the other hand, prebiotics are found in many plant-based foods including:
- Lentils and beans
Try to eat a few serves of prebiotic foods each day, as they are full of other beneficial nutrients. Probiotic foods can be consumed as often as you prefer – I recommend at least 2-3 serves per week.
Should I take a probiotic or prebiotic supplement?
My policy is always food before supplements. A supplement can’t make up for never eating healthy wholefoods, and it’s not a sustainable way to approach your health.
But if you are dealing with a lot of gut symptoms, you may want to consider a supplement. In this case, consult your health practitioner to decide which supplement best suits your needs. Particularly with probiotics, different strains can have different benefits, so you want to make sure you’re taking the best strain for your body.
Are probiotics and prebiotics for everyone?
Food is very personalised to the person. There are some conditions that can be exacerbated by large amounts of probiotic and/or prebiotic foods. Intolerances, irritable bowel syndrome and bacterial overgrowth can all cause symptoms if you consume these foods.
If you’re not sure if these foods are right for you, have a chat to your friendly dietitian!
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