In recent years, gut health has come roaring onto the scene as a hot topic with prebiotics and probiotics taking center stage. If you’ve gone through the dairy aisle of your local grocery store, you’ve probably seen more and more yogurt and kefir products touting their probiotic properties from the shelves. And while foods with prebiotics may not be so obviously labeled, they’re equally as important to the body.
So, what’s the difference between prebiotics and probiotics? We’re glad you asked. Let’s start with prebiotics.
What Do Prebiotics Do?
Prebiotics often get overlooked next to their more well known counterpart — probiotics. These teeny tiny microorganisms serve as the perfect meals for “good bacteria.” Put simply, they’re the foods that probiotics like to eat.
Prebiotics are essential for populating the healthy bacteria in your gut, so if you’re eating foods that contain prebiotic fiber, your gut bacteria will grow and thrive, resulting in smoother digestion, stronger immunity, and balanced hormones. On the contrary, if your diet is low in prebiotic foods, your healthy gut bacteria will slowly die off or be replaced by potentially harmful bacteria.
Sources of Prebiotic Fiber Foods
These gut bacteria boosters can be found in many fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, so the good news is, you’re probably getting a lot of them already! Some of the best and most delicious sources include artichokes, bananas, dandelion greens, asparagus and apple skins.
Being the fuel for probiotics, prebiotics are essential to the health of our gutty works, so hooray for delightfully fibrous, wonderfully nutritious fruits and veggies!
What Are Probiotics & Why Are They Important?
Probiotics are powerhouses for the body, and these incredibly small organisms consist of many kinds of bacterias and yeasts. And while bacteria and excessive yeast may make your brain jump to thinking of infection — stop there. Not all bacteria are bad for you! You actually have a significant amount of good bacteria living in your gut (specifically in the intestines and digestive tract) that are vitally important for keeping you healthy and are responsible for breaking down the food you eat. As a matter of fact, microorganisms, like bacteria, outnumber human cells in your body 10 to one.
Surprised? Maybe a little shocked? We thought you might be.
The bottom line is, we need probiotics. They help grow and maintain the balance of a healthy, vibrant bacterial colony for our gut’s microbiome which aids in our digestion, absorption, helps maintain immune system function and keeps “bad bacterias” and fungi at bay.
4 Foods with Probiotics to Try for a Healthier Gut
While you can get these little digestive-boosting bacteria from supplements, we’re big fans of getting them through our food, and there are plenty of options out there containing loads of naturally occurring probiotics. The top performer here? Fermented foods.
- Kombucha. It’s no surprise that this tasty, fermented tea is our favorite for gut health! Packed with beneficial bacteria and B vitamins, this delicious beverage aids digestion and is jam-packed with probiotics. Our living drinks happily deliver multiple strands of these living cultures, while some only carry one. That’s why we use the traditional, open air fermentation process, and refrain from pasteurization, because we believe the more live, active cultures, the merrier.
- Yogurt. This dairy staple is commonly one of the first foods we think of when we hear the word probiotics. To make sure you’re getting the highest dose of probiotics from the yogurt you eat, look for labels that say “live active cultures” on them.
- Kimchi. Scoop it up and pile it high on your sandwich at lunch or on your stir fry for dinner. Kimchi is made from fermented cabbage, containing strains of beneficial lactic acid bacteria that your gut loves to gobble up.
- Tempeh. This vegetarian meat alternative is made from fermented soy, making it a rather sneaky (and maybe less well known) source of probiotics. But there’s also an added bonus. Tempeh has a whopping 20 grams of protein per serving, so it’s a one-two healthy punch for the body.
If none of these foods tickle your fancy, some other options with great sources of probiotics to try are sauerkraut, kefir, olives, pickles, and fermented cheeses. Eat them as a snack or add them to your next meal to keep your gut bacteria happy and healthy.
The Yin & Yang of Prebiotics and Probiotics
All this to be said, the bottom line is your body needs both prebiotics and probiotics to function optimally. Your gut won’t be entirely happy having one without the other. This dynamic duo works together to maintain balance in our digestive microbiome and is said to help us stay holistically healthy — from easing depression symptoms and helping fight obesity, to stronger intestinal walls and helping with regularity.
There is, however, still very little research on probiotics, and even less on prebiotics, but here's to hoping we have more information on these gems in the near future! In the meantime, we hope this inspires you to add more fruits and veggies to your diet and to keep your fridge stocked with delicious kombucha to power up your gut health.