Did you know that you have more than 100 trillion microorganisms from 5,000 species living in your gut? Keep reading to find out how these tiny but mighty microbes can impact your health.
Let's start with some definitions. Probiotics are live, active cultures that produce compounds to improve the health of your intestines. They flourish in your intestinal tract to help remove harmful bacteria. Prebiotics are indigestible compounds that stimulate the growth of bacteria. They are found naturally in fruits, veggies, legumes and whole grains and are a source of fuel for good bacteria (ie: probiotics). So, which one should I be eating?
Answer: both. However, probiotics have been shown to be more helpful in improving digestion, immunity and infection resistance in studies. It's also been found to help alleviate symptoms of:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Food allergies and sensitivities
- Common cold
- Crohn's disease
- Hay fever
- Ulcerative colitis
Probiotics are found in dairy foods, namely yogurt. Because yogurts vary widely, always check the ingredients list for live, active cultures like lactobacilli or bifidobacteria. Probiotics are often found in fermented foods and supplements, but always speak with your health care provider before beginning a new supplement regimen. With your probiotics, make sure to get plenty of prebiotics to keep them growing. Aim for more fresh fruit and vegetables, legumes and whole grains.
To get more probiotics in your diet, experiment with yogurt at every meal.
Breakfast - Breakfast is the perfect time to include yogurt bursting with beneficial bacteria. Swap milk for yogurt in your cereal or top your pancakes or waffles with yogurt. If you're having an omelet, add a dollop of protein-rich Greek yogurt instead of sour cream.
Lunch - If you're not a fan of just eating a yogurt out of the container, you can mix it up in an on-the-go smoothie or make your own veggie dip with your favorite seasonings. Try adding yogurt to tuna salad (instead of mayo) for a nutritious alternative.
Dinner - Dinner may not seem like the right time to have yogurt-think again! Make dipping sauces using plain yogurt and your favorite seasoning packets or use it to thicken marinades on chicken or steak.
Dessert - add yogurt to pie or cake instead of whipped cream or freeze your own for an ice cold treat!
To determine if you would benefit for pre- or probiotics, speak with your health care provider or a Registered Dietitian.