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Adding Prebiotics and Probiotics to diet

Adding Prebiotics and Probiotics to diet

Wondering what the buzz is about concerning prebiotics and probiotics? I mean it’s a big topic in health and wellness these days. Adding prebiotics and probiotics to the diet has had a lot of nutritionists talking. You may have questions like: what are prebiotics? what are probiotics? Are they similar? Are probiotics and prebiotics healthy? why should I incorporate them into my diet? and a legion of other questions. We have compiled all you need to know on prebiotics and probiotics and possible answers to all of your concerns about adding prebiotics and probiotics to your diet.

Adding Prebiotics and Probiotics to diet


Probiotics or gut bacteria are live microorganisms found in certain foods or are dietary supplements that may have health benefits when consumed in a diet or used on the body.

Bacteria are not always on the offensive. There are called probiotics or friendly bacteria that aid different metabolic processes in the body. The human digestive system hosts certain bacteria like probiotics which aid digestion. Including probiotics in your diet means you are on the right path to achieving a healthier gut. Probiotics are found in fermented foods like yogurt and pickles, beauty products, and specific dietary supplements.

Nutritionists suggest we can introduce more good bacteria into the gut by

  • Consuming fermented foods: This is the most natural source of probiotics
  • Taking dietary supplements: Dietary supplements are formulated to treat ailments or prescribed by the doctor as a preventive measure.

It’s not very easy to answer how much probiotic food a person needs. There is currently no recommended daily intake or standardized dosing for probiotics. Nutritionists suggest you add as many fermented foods to your daily diet since there is no way to determine the best quantity of probiotics to consume per day.

Sources of probiotics

  1. Youghurt
  2. Kefir
  3. Fermented sauerkraut
  4. Pickles
  5. Kimchi
  6. Miso
  7. Kombucha
  8. Olive
  9. Apple cider vinegar
  10. Natto
  11. Tempeh
  12. Sourdough Bread
  13. Traditional buttermilk
  14. Some cheeses.

Health Benefits of Probiotics

There is a lot of ongoing research concerning the definitive health benefits of probiotics. There are some already proven health benefits of probiotics although before making dietary changes it is best to consult your doctor, especially in cases of previous or present health challenges like allergies to sources 9f probiotics as there can be side effects. Seek medical advice and get prescriptions for probiotic supplements. You may be advised to simply incorporate probiotic-rich foods into your diet rather than taking probiotic supplements as not all probiotics are the same.

Proven health benefits and uses of probiotics include:

  1. Improve digestive health
  2. Reduces clinical depression
  3. It promotes heart health
  4. Corrective treatment of ulcerative colitis
  5. Promotes better-looking skin
  6. Treatment or prevention of diarrhoea
  7. Bone health benefits
  8. Help regularize blood pressure
  9. Prevention of irritable bowel syndrome
  10. Treatment of Crohn’s disease
  11.  Decreases the need for antibiotics
  12. Absences from colds
  13. Reduces the risks of ventilator-associated pneumonia
  14.  Treatment for gestational diabetes
  15. Treatment of eczema in children, urinary tract infections, and vaginal infections.

Probiotic foods undergo fermentation which transforms healthy foods into probiotic foods, for instance, cucumbers become pickles, cabbage becomes sauerkraut, milk can be made into yogurt, cheese, or sour cream, and soybeans transformed into miso. It is important to remember that not all fermented foods contain probiotics. Foods like wine and beer undergo steps to either remove probiotics or make them inactive. Although fermented foods may not be pleasant to everyone because they can taste sour and smell quite strong. Fermented foods have unique flavors and textures partly attributed to the different species of bacteria used like lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacteria.

Side effects

  1. Possible adverse events for patients with Crohn’s disease if they take a specific probiotic.
  2. People with weak immune systems may be more vulnerable to side effects.
  3. It may be unsafe for people with serious underlying medical conditions.

There isn’t enough data to explicitly state the effects of probiotics especially on long term bases however, it is advised to consult a doctor before significantly increasing your intake of probiotics.


The gut houses over 1,000 different types of bacteria. Some of these bacteria may not be beneficial and some are which are called probiotics. These bacteria need “food” to survive. That’s where prebiotics come in and act as the fertilizer and nourishment probiotics only.

They are a class of dietary fibre that feed probiotics in the gut. Like other dietary fibres, prebiotics cannot be digested by humans but serve as fuel for probiotics. Prebiotics like other dietary fibres are not digested but go into the colon where they are fermented and fed on by the probiotics. This prebiotics allows gut bacteria to make nutrients like acetate, butyrate and some other short-chain fatty acids for colon cells, leading to a healthier digestive system.

It is important to consume different prebiotics to eat, to provide sufficient fuel for the different prebiotics in the gut. Prebiotics stimulate the good bacteria in the gut and promote gut health.

Sources of probiotics

Not all found fiber-rich foods are sources of prebiotics. You may already be consuming foods rich in prebiotics that are already helping the prebiotic community more efficiently. Consuming different prebiotics support bacterial diversity by consciously including prebiotic soluble fibers, some polyphenolic compounds, and resistant starches in your diet.

Types of prebiotic foods

  • Soluble fibres
  • Resistant starches
  • Polyphenolic compounds.

These types of prebiotic foods provide different forms of prebiotics

Soluble fibres include vegetables like

  • Asparagus
  • Chicory Root
  • Jerusalem Artichokes (also known as Sunchokes)
  • Garlic
  • Leeks
  • Onions
  • Shallots
  • Savoy Cabbage
  • Dandelion Greens
  • Fennel Bulb

Resistant starches include

  • Oats
  • Potato
  • Pastas
  • Seaweed
  • Tigernuts
  • Bran
  • Barley
  • Unripe bananas and their flour
  • Unmodified potato starch
  • Pulses (dried beans, lentils, split peas, and chickpeas)
  • Seeds
  • Nuts
  • Almonds
  • Pistachio nuts
  • Flaxseeds

Polyphenol sources include

  • Fruits like berries, cherries, kiwi, bananas (ripe)custard apples, watermelon, grapefruit
  • Citrus Peels
  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Beans include red kidney beans, baked beans, and soybeans.

As mentioned earlier it is important to eat a variety of prebiotic-rich foods.

Here are some suggestions

  • Eat soups like Minestrone Soup, Creamy Cauliflower Soup, and spicy Pumpkin Chili
  • Sushi
  • Eat more pulses like chickpeas, lentils, dried beans, and split peas, dump meat-based meals
  • Drink flavored water
  • Snack on prebiotic-rich protein/ energy bars
  • Substitute soda drinks with blueberry mint green tea, raspberry ginger-lime mix, and cranberry orange ginger juice.
  • Spread peanut butter on bread, apple, or celery or add it to a smoothie recipe.
  • Eat high-fiber breakfast cereals, whole-grain bread, fruits, nuts, and seeds
  • Add legumes to soups and salads

Health Benefits of prebiotics

The addition of prebiotic foods to the diet is a healthy option for vegans and people on other diets. If you want to add more prebiotic-rich foods to your diet or if you are considering using prebiotic supplements, it is important you seek medical advice from your doctor or dietitian.

Some known health benefits of Prebiotics include

  • Improving digestive health
  • Fight chronic inflammation and disease
  • Boosts immunity
  • Fewer antibiotic-related health problems
  • Promotes satiety
  • Known ability to fight against inflammation and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Helping you manage weight
  • Improves calcium absorption rate of the body
  • Accelerates metabolism of carbohydrates
  • Has the potential of enhancing digestion and metabolism
  • Promotes good gut health

Sides Effects of Prebiotics

There are no known side effects of prebiotics but usage in infancy is not advised. Also, people with underlying medical conditions are not advised to use prebiotic supplements.

Prebiotic and Probiotic Interactions

Synbiotics blend both prebiotics and probiotics, you can’t have probiotics without prebiotics. Dr. Cresci says “A probiotic in a capsule may not survive while sitting on the grocery store shelf or passing through the intestinal tract, but when combined with its food source, the prebiotic, it has a much better shot at staying viable until it reaches the part of the gut where it will ultimately live.”

Prebiotics and probiotics work together to ensure a generally healthy colony of bacteria and other microorganisms that both supports a healthy gut and aids digestion. Pre and probiotics ensure there is a suitable environment where microorganisms can flourish with growth aids. Probiotics need prebiotics to work effectively as prebiotics serves as food for probiotics. However, these food components are not yet widely researched and scientists are still yet to make a connection if taking prebiotics can support probiotic development.

Things to Note

If your doctor has given you the go-ahead to add more prebiotics and probiotics-rich foods into your diet, here are a few things to keep in mind to ensure they’re as effective as they could be.

  • Refrigerate your probiotics as they are living organisms that can be destroyed by heat. You don’t have to worry about this with prebiotics.
  • It is important to introduce pro and prebiotics after an infection treatment with antibiotics
  • Make sure the supplements taken for any of these food components are prescribed by your doctor. These over-the-counter supplements differ from brand to brand housing different qualities and microbes.


The benefits of having a healthy gut cannot be overemphasized. A balanced gut bacteria community promotes general health. Adding prebiotics and probiotics to your diet ensures an ideal balance between good and bad gut bacteria. Remember to talk to your healthcare provider before introducing more prebiotics and probiotics into your diet either in the form of supplements or natural foods. It’s possible to go overboard and face potential side effects.

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