According to a survey of over 2,000 registered dietitians, fermented foods are expected to be the #1 “superfood” in 2018. Examples of fermented foods include yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha. Why are fermented foods such a big deal this year, and why are these foods even good for us? First, we need to understand the gut microbiome.
Another name for the gut microbiome is the gut flora, and it begins developing in the womb. The gut microbiome is an entire ecosystem of billions of bacteria, yeasts, fungi, and other organisms that live in our digestive tract. These organisms together can weigh over 4lbs, which is heavier than the average brain! These bacteria act on our gut to break down toxic digestive by-products, aid in the digestion and absorption of nutrients, and help prevent illness and infection. Who would have thought that all of those little bacteria are actually doing us some good?
In order for our gut to function to the best of its ability, it’s essential that we have a healthy, diverse gut microbiome. The gut is influenced by many things including dietary choices, stress, and sleep. There are many health benefits to promoting good gut bacteria such as improved digestion, enhanced immune system, prevention of food-borne illnesses, and management of inflammatory bowel conditions. We can promote good bacteria through our diet in the form of probiotics and prebiotics.
What is the difference between a probiotic and a prebiotic? Probiotics are live strains of bacteria that are naturally found in your gut. You can find probiotics in fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kombucha as well as through supplements.* When you consume probiotics in your diet, you are consuming live strains of bacteria that are adding to your gut microbiome. To maintain a healthy gut, we need a diverse gut microbiome. This means we need a lot of bacteria and a lot of different kinds of bacteria. There is a vast array of bacteria that are found in probiotics. They all exhibit different effects with different people, so what works best for one person may not work best for another. When you are purchasing probiotics, pay attention to the label and make sure it says “contains live strains.” Some examples of live strains to look for include lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. These specific strains are supported by scientific research to be effective.
Prebiotics act as the food for these good bacteria to help them thrive. Prebiotics are found in non-digestible fibers in foods such as garlic, onions, asparagus, bananas, and whole wheat products. Prebiotics act to promote growth and activity of certain bacteria in the gut. Some of the health benefits of prebiotics include reducing diarrhea, relief from symptoms of intestinal bowel disorder, and protecting against colon cancer. Prebiotics also have been shown to enhance the absorption of minerals in our body and lower certain risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
Probiotics and prebiotics work great together to promote gut health, and we can easily get these from the foods we eat. If you want more information about this topic or any other nutrition-related topics, sign up for a free one-on-one session with our Smart Eats staff or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Always consult your physician before taking any new supplement