Prebiotics and probiotics have been making the news in a big way these days. In the past few years, hundreds of companies have recognized this trend and begun to include them in their products, offering not only prebiotic and probiotic supplements in many forms, but also a wide array of food and beverage options boasting millions if not billions of beneficial bacteria.
Although some of these foods might indeed be terrific options - think kefir, kimchi and kombucha - others are a little more dubious: chocolate; muffins and protein bars. One has to be careful to read the fine print. Some of these products offer too little bacteria to be beneficial, while others have cooked them to death. In this article, we’ll explore which foods are richest in beneficial probiotics and which to avoid.
What are Prebiotics? Where are Probiotics found?
Prebiotics are found within the fibrous membrane of some plants and grains, and provide food for probiotics, helping them grow in numbers.
Here’s a list of prebiotic foods we keep in mind: artichokes: asparagus: bananas; barley; berries; chicory; garlic; legumes; oats; onions and certain vegetables. Other prebiotic fibers include galactooligosaccharides, fructooligosaccharides, oligofructose, chicory fiber and inulin.
Interestingly, babies receive prebiotics from their mom’s milk, thus improving the probiotic flora population in their guts.
What are Probiotics?
A great variety of healthful bacteria are classified as probiotics, and each of these has various benefits, with most coming from one of two groups:
Lactobacillus. This is the most common probiotic. A variety of strains can help with diarrhea and the digestion of lactose, or milk sugars.
Bifidobacterium. These ease the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and, according to a number of studies, can aid in weight management.
Where and How to find Them?
In addition to those listed above, we can also find prebiotics in a great variety of foods, which we will break down into two categories: a prebiotic foods list divided into Buy and Don’t Bother:
Buy: Grass fed, organic and RBGH-free yogurt and cottage cheese, kefir, kimchi, kombucha, tempeh, miso, buttermilk and pickles. Also, some cheeses offer probiotics, but most don’t, and you’d have to eat too much cheese to reap the benefits.
Don’t Bother: Baked goods claiming to offer probiotics, anything offering “1” billion probiotic strains (you’d have to eat so much of that baked good that you’d gain weight before reaping any benefits), candies, chocolate, smoothies, ice cream, ec.
You’d have to eat so much of that baked good that you’d gain weight before reaping any benefits.
Of course, you can also find prebiotics and probiotics in supplements -
Buy: All reputable GMP supplements with 20 Billion probiotic strains and a variety of either Bifidobacterium and or Lactobacillus (or both!) depending on your reason for purchase.
Don’t Bother: Probiotic gummies - these only offer one strain (all others die in the gummy making process) and not many good bacteria remain.
In conclusion, if we want to include as many beneficial prebiotics and probiotics as possible in our daily diet, and support those we already have. We should avoid highly processed foods (those with substantial amounts of non-organic additives) and focus instead on whole foods - especially those listed above as well as organic produce.