What are Probiotics?

Created by: Kristen Carli, Dietetic Intern

Probiotics, prebiotics and gut health are trendy topics of the moment! Do you know what these are or how they benefit your health? What does the research say about these functional foods?

Gut Health

Thousands of different types of bacteria live in your intestines. These make up your microbiome. It is ideal to have a good balance of healthy and unhealthy bacteria for good gut health. Having a healthy gut may prevent against intestinal disease, may protect heart health, may control blood sugar, and may help create neurotransmitters. 

What are Probiotics?

Probiotics are “good” bacteria that live in your gut. These bacteria are responsible for balancing out your gut flora. You naturally have these bacteria in your gut, but you may seek out more. 

Good food sources of probiotics are fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, and aged cheeses. Look for food labels that say “contains live and active cultures”. 

What are Prebiotics?

Prebiotics provide the fuel for the probiotics. Prebiotics are composed of fiber that humans cannot digest. Once the fiber makes its way into the gut, prebiotics are fermented by probiotics. 

Prebiotics are found in plant foods. Some examples are bananas, onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, artichokes, and edamame.

Food First

Although prebiotics and probiotics are available in pill form, it is not necessary to take these as supplements. You can easily find natural prebiotics and probiotics in food. Seek out food sources of probiotics to balance your gut flora. Incorporate more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fermented foods into your diet to intake a mixture of both probiotics and prebiotics.

Material adapted from eatright.org, healthline.com, & foodinsight.org

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