By Florencia Tagliavini, the NutraMilk nutritionist.
Probiotics will help you stay healthy. They are considered a ¨functional food¨, which basically means they have a potentially positive effect on health beyond basic nutrition.
You have probably heard of people taking probiotic supplements or probiotics in yogurt. But, do you know what they really are and where else you can find them?
What´s the difference between probiotics and prebiotics?
Probiotics are live, active microorganisms that are ingested and help change or repopulate intestinal bacteria to balance and create a healthy gut flora.
There are many different strains of bacteria and microorganisms that live within our gut and our entire body (AKA - our microbiome) which can greatly influence our health.
More and more fascinating research is constantly being done on the microbiome and its effect on treatment and prevention of metabolic conditions, immune disorders, neurological disorders, and overall health.
Prebiotics are basically food for the ¨good¨ bacteria. Different fibers from foods are considered prebiotics and can promote the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut. You can get prebiotics by consuming more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes. Just like you can feed good bacteria you can also feed the bad or unhealthy strains of bacteria which are associated with health problems. Junk food and foods that are high in sugar, salt, unhealthy fats, and too many refined grains can negatively impact your gut flora.
Both probiotics and prebiotics work together synergistically to create and maintain a healthy gut flora and therefore a healthy you! Foods that combine both probiotics and prebiotics are called ¨symbiotics¨, such as a healthy bowl of yogurt that provides probiotics with some bananas and a topping of nut butter which provides prebiotics.
In my opinion, the best way to get most of your nutrients and obtain good health is from real whole foods, not from supplements (which can be used in certain situations when they are truly necessary).
So, where else can we get probiotics from?
From fermented foods. The most well known is probably yogurt but there is so much more. Kefir products, aged cheeses, fermented vegetables, pickles, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, and kimchi are great sources of probiotics. Other fermented foods such as green olives, kombucha, and sourdough bread also provide some probiotics.
These foods all provide different strains of either bacteria or yeast and each strain is associated with different health benefits. For example, ¨lactobacillus acidophilus¨, most commonly found in yogurt is associated with helping treat vaginal conditions, diarrhea and boosting immunity; ¨Bifidobacterium bifidum¨, also found in dairy products, non-dairy yogurt and kefir, is linked with boosting immunity and improving eczema in infants as well as helping treat GI conditions such as constipation, IBS, ulcerative colitis, and H. Pylori; ¨Lactobacillus plantarum¨, found in probiotic juice and all the fermented vegetables, is associated with improving physiological health, increasing immunity and improving metabolic conditions.
These are just some of the many strains found in the different probiotics foods.
Typically, foods that provide probiotics are healthy foods that also provide many other good nutrients. Include a variety of fermented foods (for probiotics) and high fiber foods (for prebiotics) in your diet to create and maintain a healthy gut flora which will, in turn, promote your overall well being.
How can you incorporate probiotics with the NutraMilk?
Here is one way. Check out the following article: Spotlight on Almond Milk Kefir.