When we hear the word bacteria, “healthy” is not what usually comes to mind. After all, we have dozens of products devoted to sanitizing and killing harmful bacteria that could potentially infect us. However, there are also strains of beneficial bacteria, called probiotics, that can be good for you gut and overall health!
Bacteria is your friend – Probiotics
Often referred to as the “friendly” or “good” bacteria, probiotics are living, lactic acid-producing microorganisms that can be found both in fermented foods, like yogurt and sauerkraut, and in our digestive tract. When consumed, probiotics can survive and proliferate, becoming part of your intestinal microflora where they work to maintain healthy digestion, boost immune responses, and even improve allergies. Regular consumption of probiotics prevents harmful bacteria from overpopulating, which can cause infection and inflammation [i][ii].
Bacteria is your friend – Prebiotics
Probiotics can get a boost from the similar-sounding prebiotics, which are indigestible carbohydrates that act as fuel for the beneficial bacteria. Prebiotics increase the growth and activity of the good bacteria found naturally in our intestinal microflora. Certain foods, like the dairy drink kefir, are synbiotic as they contain both probiotics and the food source they need to survive and flourish. When prebiotics are consumed from carbohydrates such as bran cereal or oatmeal they begin to ferment in the colon and produce short chain fatty acids, which nourish the lining of the colon. Ingestion of prebiotics and probiotics are important for colon health as well as potentially reducing risk of digestive disorders and colon cancer and helping to manage side effects of cancer treatments [i][ii].
Probiotics and prebiotics in your diet:
- A bowl of oatmeal with bananas, both contain prebiotics and is certainly a yummy way to start the day.
- Miso paste contains numerous probiotics, is low in calories and high in B vitamins. Trying using a small amount in dressing or use it as your excuse to have a Japanese-style dinner.
- Yogurt is full of healthy bacteria for your gut. Use it in smoothies, mix it with fruit and granola, or just have it on its own. Store bought yogurt is often full of added sugar, so check the label!
- Add Kefir and Greek-style yogurt to your regular routine.
- Homemade or store bought-refrigerated sauerkraut contains probiotics through the fermentation process, just make sure the bottle reads, “Contains live active cultures.”
- Honey is filled with probiotics, dribble some on your fruit for a snack or use it as a natural sweetener. Just don’t go overboard!
- Use buttermilk, sour cream or other fermented-type products in recipes.