If you’ve spent even a few minutes watching television, you’ve more than likely seen commercials talking about the latest, must-have probiotic products. While the media attention has made the term “probiotic” a somewhat more commonplace one, there is another side to this subject that has yet to share the same limelight: prebiotics. Both probiotics and prebiotics are beneficial for the human body and if you’re wondering why you hear about one more than the other, now’s the time to get the 411 on the latter.
The easiest way to tell the difference between the two is that probiotics is a type of bacteria that is good for the human body, while prebiotics are not bacteria. They are non-digestible foods that aid in the healthy growth of good bacteria within the body. When prebiotics are present, this improves the effectiveness of probiotics. Make sense?
Among its many capabilities, prebiotics are known for being very beneficial to the human body by controlling and even preventing occasional diarrhea, increasing the body’s availability of magnesium, calcium and other vital minerals, increases good bacteria levels while lowering bad bacteria levels, providing relief from constipation, improving the body’s ability to absorb minerals and giving the body up to 10% of the daily energy it needs to function properly. That’s not too shabby.
As functioning nutrients, prebiotics are typically found in legumes, whole grains and fruits, among others. Because this nutrient works hand-in-hand with probiotics, it is important for health conscious individuals to learn how to include the two together in their daily nutrition. Having more of one over the other does little to really improve a person’s health. A common practice is to take a probiotic supplement and pair it with foods that are naturally rich in prebiotics. A daily helping of fresh vegetables, fruits and whole grains should be more than enough. There are also prebiotics available in supplement form as well. Those hoping to kill two birds with one stone may also want to look into supplements that are formulated with both. It is a good idea to talk to your physician and/or a nutritionist/dietician about whether or not such supplements would be in your best interest to take. People suffering from preexisting health conditions should also consult with their doctor before changing their dietary regimen to include probiotic and/or prebiotic supplements.
Not a fan of taking supplements? Individuals that would rather get their daily dose of probiotics and prebiotics the old fashioned way will want to make sure the following food items find their way from the grocery store to their kitchen and into their everyday meals: oats (whole grain, oatmeal, barley, whole rye, whole wheat), legumes (chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, black beans), yogurt, soy milk, aged cheese, pickled ginger, sauerkraut, cottage cheese, kimchi, microbrewed beers, asparagus, leeks, onions, peas, red wine, bananas, berries, garlic, eggplant, fresh herbs, soybeans, dark chocolate, peanuts and cherries.