You’ve probably heard about probiotics — foods like kimchi and kefir and other fermented goodies have recently been getting attention. And with good reason! Probiotics are little helpers for your gut — in fact, your gut is likely teeming with them right now, working hard to help your digestion and immune system. While you may not feel them working right away, you will certainly feel the effects of these microorganisms and what they can do for your health. And when your gut is out of balance between good bacteria and bad bacteria you’ll be feeling that too!
When you are feeling a little off-center, there are a couple of options for bringing back some bacteria balance. Take your daily dose of probiotics in pill form, or get them the delicious way — from fermented foods and drinks! Sandor Katz, in his book The Art of Fermentation, recommends consuming fermented foods in consistent, smaller doses, rather then one big ol’ bowl of kraut at a time. He says “moderation and diversity must guide our diets.” This way, your gut is getting a steady supply of microorganisms, rather then one large gut punch of bacteria.
Want some ideas to get your steady stream of good little (and by little we mean microscopic) guys? Consider drinking a fermented beverage like kombucha with your meal. Having a sandwich or some rice? Try adding a side of kimchi or sauerkraut as a flavorful way to add some excitement (and good bacteria) to your day.
While we are big fans of probiotics (rah rah!), there’s another side to the gut health coin –– prebiotics.
Prebiotics are a type of indigestible fiber in some fruits and vegetables, and are food for the probiotics that live in our guts. That’s right, the probiotics love to chow down on the prebiotics. Conveniently, prebiotics are found in many foods. In fact, you are probably already consuming prebiotics in your diet without even trying. Prebiotics are found in foods like raw and cooked onions, garlic, asparagus, dandelion greens, apples, chicory, berries, jerusalem artichokes, oats and bananas. Even wheat flour, when baked into bread and other pastries, contains prebiotics. The more food we give to the probiotics living in our gut, the more efficiently these bacteria work — and that means a healthier body overall. Bonus: many prebiotics are good for us in other ways.
Consider eating a few prebiotics with your probiotics throughout the day. Try something like an asparagus and miso stir fry, or a smoothie with Pomegranate Lemonade Humm Kombucha blended with yogurt and berries. Any way you look at it, keeping an eye on your gut health can be fun and delicious.