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Pre - And Probiotics: Nature’s Tools for Digestive Health

Jun 07, 2017 02:00PM ● Published by Becca Newell

By Becca Newell

A trim and toned midsection doesn’t necessarily signify a healthy gut—although, generally speaking, a smaller stomach equates to a healthier body. Regardless of your weight, show the digestive system a little TLC by incorporating pre- and probiotic foods into your diet. Your gut will thank you!


Probiotics are fermented foods that aid digestion and offer protection from harmful bacteria; prebiotics are “non-digestible carbohydrates that act as food for probiotics,” according to the Mayo Clinic. When combined, the two create a synergy that feed the body’s microbes—cells comprised of bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms. Preliminary research suggests that probiotics may help to treat diarrhea, IBS, yeast infections, UTIs, and intestinal infections, in addition to helping prevent or reduce the severity of colds and flus.

Greek Yogurt

Made from fermented milk, Greek yogurt is a great source of protein, combining two bacteria strains: Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus. Look for “live active cultures” on yogurt labels to ensure probiotic benefits, since some brands treat their products with heat post-fermentation, which can kill the helpful bacteria. Also, if you’re going for healthy, avoid any products with added sugars.


A fermented Korean dish made with vegetables and seasoning, there are more than a hundred different varieties of kimchi, but a simple recipe incorporates cabbage, radishes, and scallions, seasoned with red pepper, garlic, ginger, sugar, and fish sauce. In addition to being a probiotic, one study suggested kimchi may have anti-diabetic effects, particularly in combination with a low-fat diet.


This fermented drink is made with brewed tea—typically black or green—and a SCOBY, or Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast, which can be purchased online. It can be flavored, too, with various fruit juices, spices, and flower or root extracts. Pasteurized versions of the drink don’t carry any probiotic benefits, but be careful when purchasing unpasteurized varieties, as time on a refrigerated shelf can lead to contamination, which has been linked to causing bacterial infections and allergic reactions. Homemade kombucha is recommended.


Prebiotic foods should be consumed raw, since cooking generally breaks down the amount of prebiotic fibers.

Jerusalem Artichoke

31.5% prebiotic content
Despite its name, the Jerusalem artichoke is actually a variety of sunflower that is similar in appearance to a ginger root. Underneath the pale brown skin is a nutty and sweet flesh, with a crisp texture, that also provides a good source of iron and potassium.


17.5% prebiotic content
With cardiovascular benefits and anti-cancer properties, garlic is full of manganese, selenium, and vitamins C and B6. Crush raw cloves into homemade salad dressings, guacamole, or hummus for full prebiotic benefits. Once cooked, its fibers transform into sugars.


5% prebiotic content
Asparagus boasts vitamins A, E, and K, and magnesium, zinc, and selenium, among a host of other nutrients. If you don’t find raw asparagus appetizing, partially cook to soften slightly or steam the green stalks to retain ample prebiotic fiber. When fermented, asparagus offers probiotic properties.


1% prebiotic content
Rich in potassium, bananas are also packed with fiber, and vitamins C and B6, and make for a convenient, on-the-go prebiotic snack. Typically, those on the riper side contain higher prebiotic properties.

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