What Are Pre & Probiotics And Why Should I Care?

On the days when you wish to send your landlord or residence adviser a very firmly worded e-mail, or—even more daring—publicly confront them remember you too are host to your own residences. Okay, the connection is somewhat forced—but metaphors are helpful, right?

You see right now there are beneficial bacteria who live, work—but probably not play—in your body. Their ultimate purpose is to assist in such bodily functions as nutrient production and digestion. On the other hand, like your lousy upstairs neighbour who listens to Lorde’s latest album at top volume, there are also potentially harmful bacteria who call your body home. In both cases, the beneficial and the harmful bacteria, the good and the bad residences, you are (metaphorically-speaking) their landlord. As much as we tire of that nasty neighbour’s love of Lorde, it’s essential we maintain a balance between both groups for the health of our building, our body. (I promise I’ll quit with the metaphors soon.) However, rather than issue a complaint or file a report on either residence’s behaviour in order to maintain order in our homes, our bodies have pre- and probiotics.

what are pre and probiotics and why should I care

The good bacteria in our digestive system (to use another metaphor) “eat” prebiotics to fuel their development and work. Meanwhile, probiotics are themselves live microorganisms, which enter our bodies through the food we eat, adding to the population of good bacteria already present in our bodies. Prebiotics are found in garlic, onions, asparagus, greens, berries as well as whole grains and oats. Likely if the marketing campaigns behind major yogurt brands have made any impact on you, you’re already aware that probiotics are found in cultured dairy including, yes, yogurt and kefir. However, they’re also contained in fermented foods (and flavor-boosters) like kimchi, sauerkraut and miso.

Science has yet to uncover the full extent of the benefits incurred by regular consumption of pre- and probiotics. However, aside from maintaining our overall health, prebiotics help control our insulin and blood sugar levels after eating and allow us to feel full faster. A balanced microbiome, the environment in your gut where the bacteria live, reduces the risk of cancer and heart disease as well as inflammation and improves nutrient absorption.

While I am always one to encourage smart confrontations à la disagreements between landlords and residences, consider how you manage your own body’s and its bacteria’s health.

Do both a favour by incorporating foods rich in pre- and probiotics into your diet:

  • Insert a popsicle stick into individually-portioned yogurt cups and freeze for homemade frozen yogurt pops.
  • Blend cultured dairy into smoothies alongside prebiotic-rich veggies.
  • Try oatmeal for breakfast on occasion.
  • Prepare lunches and dinners such as stir-frys or soups at home and you’ll likely regularly eat more onions and garlic (the flavor base of both dishes).

By making thoughtful choices about your diet, you’ll save disputes to the life outside your body—not in it.