Gut health and trying to improve our gut health has been a hot topic for quite a few years now, there are now an abundance of products on the market claiming to be gut health miracle workers. We’ve also seen the rise of prebiotics and probiotics; they are now added to every product under the sun. We have probiotic protein bars and cereals and even prebiotic water!
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are live ‘good bacteria’ which are naturally occurring in fermented foods. During fermentation, natural sugars are converted into lactic acid, facilitating the growth of lactobacilli and other probiotics. People who have high levels of lactobacilli usually have fewer Enterobacteriaceae, a bacteria associated with inflammation and a number of chronic diseases.
Sources of probiotics:
- Yoghurt – the ‘original’ probiotic food, and probably the most accessible. Look out for yoghurts that list their probiotic strains.
- Kefir – a fermented milk drink which often includes over 30 probiotic varieties! You can buy kefir in supermarkets these days, as well as health food stores.
- Kombucha – like kefir, kombucha (i.e. fermented tea) has risen from obscurity and can now be found everywhere. However, unlike the two options above, we are yet to find a kombucha product that identifies and/or quantifies the probiotic strains present. So, it’s a bit of a gamble but it certainly can’t hurt.
- Sauerkraut – pickled cabbage. Like kombucha, there are only limited studies looking into the varieties of probiotics present in sauerkraut. It is thought that those present differ from the probiotics found in yoghurt and kefir.
What are Prebiotics?
Prebiotics are dietary fibres that act as ‘food sources’ for good bacteria, promoting their growth and survival in the gut. Higher consumption of prebiotic foods has been linked to reduced growth of some disease-causing gut bacteria. It has also been linked to overall health improvement, including reduced cholesterol and stable blood sugar.
Sources of prebiotics:
Asparagus, Apples, Garlic, Flaxseeds, and Oats just to name a few.