Known as ‘the second brain’, the gut can significantly impact the body. Research has noted gut health’s effect on weight, blood sugar, the liver, and even mental health. A colourful blend of both prebiotic and probiotic foods can help build a healthy gut full of friendly bacteria.
A kind of dietary fibre, prebiotics feed the good bacteria in the digestive system. This helps your gut generate nutrients that aid digestion.
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts. Research has found that they can reduce digestive symptoms such as constipation, bloating and diarrhoea. The benefits of probiotics are best achieved by consuming a wide variety of bacteria strains.
Which foods contain prebiotics and probiotics?
Probably the most well-known probiotic in the West, yoghurt is made from milk metabolised by good bacteria. Make sure you choose yoghurt labelled with ‘active’ or ‘live’ cultures, as these contain probiotics that can help digestive conditionslike constipation and diarrhoea.
Dairy products like yoghurt also contain nutrients such as calcium which can support bone and teeth health, as well as B vitamins and magnesium.
This common herb not only adds flavour to food but can also act as a powerful prebiotic by helping gut-friendly bacteriacalled Bifidobacteria to grow. However, garlic loses its effectiveness as a prebiotic as it cooks, so raw is best.
Popular in Eastern Europe, kefir is similar to a drinkable yoghurt full of probiotics. Like yoghurt, it is made when the sugar in milk is fermented by kefir grains. However, it tends to contain many more active bacterial strains than yoghurt, so it may be even more helpful if you’re trying to restore healthy gut flora.
Asparagus, especially raw asparagus, is another vegan prebiotic source. It is rich in a prebiotic called inulin, which remains in the bowel instead of being digested. This helps increase the number of friendly bacteria such as Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria, which boosts the immune system and prevent infection.
Like garlic and asparagus, onion’s inulin content is optimum when the vegetable is consumed raw. Research has also found those allium vegetables such as onions, garlic and shallots have potential anticancer properties. One study found that the risk of colon cancer was 79% lower in participants who regularly consumed such vegetables.
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A famous German dish, sauerkraut, is shredded cabbage fermented in lactic acid bacteria – a microorganism that reduces bad bacteria and encourages friendly bacteria to grow. One serving could contain 28 different strains of bacteria!
Consumption of foods rich in prebiotics and probiotics is a great way to support gut health. Luckily, many of these foods are delicious and easy to include in your diet. Moreover, they contain many more significant health benefits. Other science-backed ways to boost gut health include frequent exercise and establishing a regular sleep pattern.
You must not rely on the information on this blog as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or therapist. If you have any specific concerns about your mental or physical health, you should consult your doctor and you should not delay seeking medical advice, or treatment for your mental health, because of the information on this blog.