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Prebiotics and probiotics; an easy and delicious way to improve your health

What if I told you there was an easy way to help improve your skin, lose weight, boost your immune system, and lower feelings of stress and anxiety? Best of all, this solution doesn’t necessarily increase your shopping budget and tastes great. Sound tempting?

Recent research has shown that eating certain easily available foods can have all these effects. And the good news is, you’re probably already eating some of them.

I’m talking about probiotics and prebiotics, the dynamic duo.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are live microorganisms similar to the ones found in our bodies. Probiotics work by supporting the good bacteria that naturally exist in our digestive tract.

Specifically, probiotics can:

  • Boost the immune system
  • Keep skin healthy
  • Aid in weight loss
  • Relieve diarrhea
  • Improve constipation

What foods contain probiotics? Some may surprise you:

  • Buttermilk
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Cottage cheese
  • Green peas
  • Kefir
  • Kimchi
  • Kombucha
  • Miso
  • Mozzarella
  • Olives
  • Sauerkraut
  • Yogurt

Studies have shown that fermented foods, and dairy, in particular, are linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, reduced risk of weight gain, reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, and altered immune responses.1

So for most people, it is a good idea to have either a diet rich in probiotic foods, or take a probiotic supplement.

Individuals with a compromised immune system may need to avoid foods and supplements containing probiotics. In that case, talk to your doctor before taking probiotics.

What are prebiotics?

Prebiotics are specific types of fiber that aren’t digestible by your body. Since your body doesn’t digest these plant fibers, they travel to your lower digestive tract and become a food source for the healthy bacteria in your gut.

Just like a probiotic, prebiotics are loaded with health benefits, including:

  • Lowering the risk for cardiovascular disease
  • Improving digestion
  • Strengthening immunity
  • Decreasing inflammation
  • Easing anxiety
  • Helping with weight loss
  • Relieving stress

When shopping, make sure to add some of these prebiotic foods toyour grocery list:

  • Apples
  • Artichokes
  • Asparagus
  • Bananas
  • Berries
  • Chicory root
  • Citrus fruit
  • Garlic
  • Mushrooms
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Onions
  • Oatmeal
  • Soybeans
  • Whole-wheat foods

Dynamic-duo smoothies

Prebiotics and probiotics work best when paired together, so eat prebiotic and probiotic foods at the same time for the biggest benefit.

Looking for easy ways to add these foods to your diet? Blend up one of these smoothies to help get your daily dose of pro and prebiotics.

3 Dynamic-Duo Smoothies

With good bacteria for gut health (and prebiotic fiber to help that bacteria thrive), these smoothies are ideal for balancing your body.

Prep Time: 5 mins

Cook Time: 0 mins

Total Time: 5 mins

Servings: 2

Equipment: Blender

Ingredients

Blueberry Oat Smoothie

1 cup fat-free skim milk, or substitute like soy or coconut milk

½ cup Vanilla Greek Yogurt

3/4 cup frozen blueberries

½ ripe banana

½ cup old-fashioned oats or quick oats

Honey to sweeten, if desired

Tropical Sunrise Smoothie

1 cup fat-free skim milk, or substitute like soy or coconut milk

½ cup orange juice

½ cup Vanilla Greek Yogurt

¾ cup frozen mango and pineapple chunks

½ cup Frozen strawberries

Honey to sweeten, if desired

Chocolate Peanut Butter Chocolate Breakfast Milkshake

1/2 cup old-fashioned oats

1 cup fat-free skim milk, or substitute like soy or coconut milk

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

1 small banana cut into pieces and frozen overnight in a freezer bag

1 cup ice cubes

1 tablespoon peanut butter

1-2 tablespoon chocolate chip morsels

Instructions

Combine ingredients in a blender; blend until smooth.

Tips

  • If your blender is struggling to mix everything, just add a little extra liquid
  • Smoothies are a great way to use those overripe brown bananas. You can peel your overripe bananas, place them in a freezer storage bag, then freeze for up to 6 months. I find that using overripe bananas adds enough sweetness so additional sweeteners are not needed
  • If you want additional protein or fiber, throw in a scoop of your favorite powdered protein or fiber supplement


References:

  1. Marco, M. L., Hill, C., Hutkins, R., Slavin, J., Tancredi, D. J., Merenstein, D., & Sanders, M. E. (2020). Should there be a recommended daily intake of microbes? The Journal of Nutrition, 150(12), 3061-3067. doi:10.1093/jn/nxaa323

The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of a doctor with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never delay seeking or disregard professional medical advice because of something you have read here.