Before we get into the details of prebiotics and probiotics, let’s take a step back and briefly discuss the microbiome. In our gut, there are trillions of live microorganisms – these make up our microbiome. Of these live microorganisms, many of them are referred to as “good bacteria”; some of their functions include supporting the immune system, enhancing nutrient absorption, helping in the synthesis of neurotransmitters, etc. Consuming probiotics, either by way of supplements or food, helps to increase the beneficial bacteria in the gut and consuming prebiotics helps to keep these beneficial microorganisms alive. For this reason, both are necessary for our health!
Probiotics are a highlighted topic in the health world, but we can’t forget about prebiotics! Prebiotics serve as food for these beneficial microorganisms; they are a source of fuel to help our gut flora thrive. As prebiotics move through the digestive system, they are not broken down by stomach acids or digestive enzymes, which is what enables them to serve as a source of fuel for the good bacteria in the gut. In short: prebiotics “feed’ the probiotics…living things need a source of food/fuel to survive, right?! Prebiotics can be obtained through whole, plant-based foods. Specific examples include raw dandelion greens, raw leeks, raw garlic, raw or cooked onions, and underripe bananas. They also bring about their own variety of health benefits including: lower risk of cardiovascular disease, improved cholesterol levels, better gut health and digestion, lower stress response, better hormone balance, lower inflammation, and more!
Probiotics, on the other hand, are the beneficial, live microorganisms – not the fuel for them. The probiotics comprise the microbiome and, for this reason, are consumed in order to increase the amount of beneficial bacteria present in the gut. The amount of these microorganisms present in the gut is a large determinant of health. With a microbiome that is in balance with good amounts of beneficial bacteria, one can expect to experience improvements in immune functioning, reduced inflammation and lower risk for a wide variety of diseases and health conditions. There are many foods that contribute to the consumption of probiotics.
Fermented foods are a rich source of probiotics. Yogurt, which is fermented milk, is a widely known source of probiotics. Vegetables can also be fermented – a common example is sauerkraut. One of our favorite fermented vegetable dishes is homemade kimchi. When vegetables are fermented, their nutrient content is increased. So, in addition to providing us with probiotics, fermented vegetables are providing us with extra nutrients! We hope you enjoy the kimchi recipe that is shared below!
Both prebiotics and probiotics play vital roles in supporting the health of the microbiome. Ideally, we should be getting the right amount of both pre- and probiotics for optimal health. Let food be your medicine and try to increase your consumption of pre- and probiotics!
**When fermenting foods, be sure to use a clean, air-tight glass jar. We always use a clean mason jar with a new lid (the flat disk lids can be purchased by the box and the part that screws on can be reused).
7 cups napa cabbage, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup thinly sliced green onions
1 cup thinly sliced carrots
½ cup thinly sliced daikon radish (we used regular radish for this recipe)
1-2 tbs grated ginger
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 jalapeño, seeds removed and diced
½ tsp dried chili flakes
4 tsp sea salt
- Place all ingredients in a large bowl. Using your hands, massage and squeeze vegetables (this should be done for several minutes…allowing juices to be released and vegetables to shrink down in size).
- Stuff all contents from the bowl into a quart-sized mason jar and press down with a pounder (we used the tamper stick from the Vitamix)
- Cover tightly.
- Keep on the counter for 3 days before transferring to cold storage (if left at room temperature, it will continue to ferment).
- Enjoy with eggs, on a salad, mixed with rice or quinoa, or with chicken.