Our bodies are filled with living organisms, actually about five pounds worth of our total body weight! These microorganisms include yeast and bacteria, which live primarily in our gut. Commonly, these are referred to as “good” bacteria and “bad” bacteria. The “good” bacteria provide many health benefits to the digestive tract, which in turn positively affects the rest of the body. Whereas “bad” bacteria can lead to illness or disease if there’s an imbalance or overabundance of it. In order to balance out potentially harmful bacteria in our digestive system and keep our bodies functioning at their best, we can boost our “good” bacteria. Probiotics do just that–they enhance the good bacteria, promoting good digestion and overall health. However, in order for probiotics to work on (and in) our gut, they need “food”, aka, prebiotics. Prebiotics are non-digestible carbohydrates.
Why Incorporate Pre- and Probiotics In Your Diet
The benefits of good gut health are many. The shortlist includes cognitive function (brain health), immunity, skin health, and weight management. Science has shown a clear link between our gut and our brain health, which are connected through our complex nervous system. If you’ve ever been “hangry”, then you know your gut can influence your mood. Our gut has the ability to influence skin condition and improve immune response. Many people don’t realize the impact of digestive wellness on metabolism and weight. Over time, and for a variety of reasons, the digestive lining can become damaged. Probiotics have been shown to help restore the gut lining, which is responsible for letting nutrients in and keeping harmful pathogens and bacteria out. This plays a large role in your overall metabolism function and contributes to achieving a healthy weight. If you pause to think about it–what good are all those veggies you’re trying to eat if the nutrition isn’t being fully absorbed?
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Dietary Factors that Can Negatively Impact “Good” Bacteria
- Excess coffee, sugar, or alcohol
- Food sensitivities, allergies, or preferences
- A regimented diet (i.e eating the same breakfast, lunch, or dinner daily)
- Insufficient fiber or probiotic and prebiotic foods
- Various digestive disorders
- Use of antibiotics
How to Incorporate Probiotics Into Your Diet
Remember how probiotics need prebiotics (“food”) to function? That means you’ll want to incorporate both into your diet. Probiotic-rich foods include yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh, miso, kombucha, and pickled foods. Prebiotic fibers are found in artichokes, leeks, garlic, onions, cabbage, dark leafy greens, chicory root (commonly found as an added ingredient), whole grains, and lentils.
Here are few of my favorite Luvo bowls that feature ingredients with prebiotics:
Considering pairing these meals with a probiotic-rich food or a probiotic supplement.
For more pre- and probiotic meal combinations click here.
As you can see, caring about your gut health translates to caring about your overall health. Make an effort to incorporate both probiotic and prebiotic-rich foods on a daily basis to supply your gut with the “good” bacteria it needs to keep the rest of your body running at optimal levels.
We encourage you to speak with a registered dietitian about how to best incorporate pre- and probiotics into your eating plan.
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