Probiotics and Prebiotics

There is enough research and evidence that links your gut health to your physical and mental health. This article serves as a guide to the gut microbiome and reasons why it’s so important for your health.

Dt. Geetika Uppal

Gold-medalist in Nutritional Science and the founder of ‘Foodmatters by Dt.Geetika Uppal’

Good health starts in the gut. Considered relatively ‘simple’ at one time, our digestive tract is home to about 300 to 500 different species of bacteria, and the “gut microbiome” is not only incredibly beneficial, it is also essential for a healthy body.

Having a wide variety of good bacteria in your gut can enhance the immune system function, improve symptoms of depression, help combat obesity, and a host of other benefits, besides keeping the “bad” bacteria in check. These beneficial or ‘good bacteria’ are what we term as ‘Probiotics’. So then, what are ‘Prebiotics’?

Probiotics and Prebiotics though they sound similar, are very different in their roles in the digestive system. ‘Prebiotics’ is food that the good bacteria feed on. Both of them are equally important and support the body in building and maintaining a healthy colony of bacteria, supporting the digestive tract, and improving digestion.

Probiotics

Probiotics, the live microorganisms naturally present in the intestines, aid in better digestion, nutrient absorption and help build immunity. If the gut environment is healthy, the body has a better immune system to fight diseases and infections. Probiotics are commonly found in certain foods and supplements like
⦁ Yogurt
⦁ Kefir
⦁ Sauerkraut (fermented food made from cabbage)
⦁ Pickles
⦁ Fermented cheese like gouda
⦁ Kimchi (pickled and fermented vegetables)
⦁ Raw honey
⦁ Fermented vegetable
⦁ Fermented buttermilk

Prebiotics

Prebiotics is the non-digestible part of the food that passes through the gastrointestinal tract undigested until it reaches the colon, where it gets fermented. This process produces fatty acids, which become food for good bacteria present in the gut. In other terms, prebiotics is the food for probiotics.
Prebiotics are majorly found in plant food sources such as:
⦁ Legumes, beans, peas
⦁ Banana
⦁ Berries
⦁ Oats
⦁ Garlic
⦁ Onion
⦁ Leaks
⦁ Asparagus
⦁ Apple with skin
⦁ Dandelion greens

Effect of food on gut microbiota

The food you eat plays a vital role in maintaining the gut flora. For example, consuming food high in sugars and fats increases the growth of harmful bacteria in the gut, which leads to insulin resistance and other health problems. On regularly ‘feeding’ the harmful bacteria, they increase in number to form big colonies affecting health, especially when the good bacteria are relatively low in numbers. This leads to a higher Body Mass Index, another significant cause of obesity.

While consuming fermented food for its probiotic benefits, one must take care that the products are not pasteurized as the process kills the good bacteria. Certain foods are rich in both prebiotics and probiotics, such as Kefir, cheese, sauerkraut. These foods are also known as ‘synbiotic’, in which the prebiotic compound selectively favors the growth of probiotics.

How to consume Prebiotics and Probiotics?

It is advised to take both prebiotics and probiotics regularly in the diet. They can be taken at the same time as well; this maintains a healthy routine. The healthier the gut microbe, the healthier the body is. 25-30 grams is the daily recommended dose for dietary fiber, out of which 15- 20 grams should be the prebiotics.
⦁ ½ cup onion has 2 gm fiber and 17% prebiotics
⦁ 1 slice wheat bread has 1 gm fiber and 70% prebiotics
⦁ 100 gm asparagus gives 2-3 gm of prebiotic fiber
⦁ 1 apple gives 2 gm of prebiotic fiber

Are Probiotic supplements good?

This is a very common query while selecting probiotics. The supplements provide very specific good bacteria to the body, which is beneficial, but not all supplements are of excellent quality or deliver the required quantity of Probiotics as needed. Therefore, it is imperative to read the labels and discuss with your health practitioner before starting any supplements.

Always remember, a healthy gut keeps the body and mind healthy.

Recipe

Brown rice bowls with tofu and broccoli

A great combination of flavors, vegetables, prebiotics, and probiotics

Ingredients  
Boiled brown rice 1 cup
Plain greek yogurt ¼ cup
Fresh orange juice 2 teaspoon
Broccoli 1 cup
Tofu cut into medium slices 250 gram
Radish sprouts or any sprouts 1 cup
Shredded radish ½ cup
Salt as per taste
Black pepper as per taste
White miso paste (optional soy sauce or tahini) 1 tbsp
Canola oil 2 tbsp

Method

⦁ Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan and stir fry sliced tofu till golden brown. Keep aside.
⦁ In the same pan, add a little more oil and saute broccoli, add water and cook till soft and tender. Add salt and pepper as per taste.
⦁ While broccoli is cooking, whisk together yogurt, orange juice, white miso, salt, and pepper into a smooth paste.
⦁ Place cooked rice in a bowl, top with cooked broccoli, tofu, sprouts, shredded radish. Pour the dressing as desired.
⦁ Serve hot, can also be served with sauerkraut. (please note – while buying readymade sauerkraut, make sure it is in an active form)
⦁ Serves 2 with 330 calories per serving.

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