If you want to improve your gut health or maintain the good gut health you already have, there are two things you must do. Consume probiotic foods and prebiotics foods and they are best consumed together, creating what is now being called “synbiotic” foods. This is easier than it may sound and rather than make it a chore, I thought I would show just how easy and, dare I say it, fun it can be.
Probiotic foods contain beneficial organisms that help our gut perform its duties and have amazing health benefits to us. Prebiotics are types of fibre like inulin, resistant starch and FOS that help feed our good bacteria. We have two types of bacteria strains in our gut: residential and transient. Residential bacteria strains are the bacteria that live in our gut naturally and we must have them re-populate to stay healthy. Transient strains of bacteria pass through us (usually within 3 days) but while they are there, they help the gut do the protect us and keep us healthy.
Probiotic foods contain, for the most part, transient bacteria. I say “for the most part” because there is some information that kefir contains residential strains while yogurt does not. I cannot confirm this but it seems possible that animal milk could contain residential strains since we share many things with our fellow mammals. Time will tell as we are learning more and more about this complicated subject. It does not really matter since prebiotics help us feed and increase our residential bacteria so we can use them to maintain the population.
Getting some prebiotic and pr0biotic foods on a regular basis is the key and that is quite easy to do. Some examples of probiotic foods are sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, yogurt, kefir, miso, natto, pure apple cider vinegar (with mother), true balsamic vinegar, wine, unpasteurized beer, crème fraiche. In order to deliver beneficial organisms from fermented foods to the gut as well as the enzymes these foods also contain, do not heated past a temperature of 118 degrees F (48 C).
Prebiotic foods are Jerusalem Artichokes, chicory, garlic, onions, beans, lentil, citrus fruits, pears, apples, bananas, berries, almonds and resistant starch found in broccoli, wheat, corn, rye, barley, rice ,spelt, potatoes, kamut, teff, and probably all other grains, but I am lazy to look them all up. The list of foods that are prebiotic is going to expand as research continues to discover more foods containing this type of fibre, which is soluble in nature. Since most fibre-containing foods have soluble fibre, it could turn out that all foods with fibre have some prebiotic benefit but we do not know that yet.
Prebiotics are not just food for good bacteria. They also enhance the absorption of calcium and magnesium and are involved in appetite regulation as well as lipid metabolism. As research continues, it is even more fascinating how these simple substances in food, and together with our good bacteria, are involved in a complex relationship to help us be healthy.
Consuming prebiotics with probiotics can be as simple as mixing banana slices into your yogurt or serving sauerkraut with a meal that contains garlic and onions. Maybe this is why we traditionally constructed meals as we did.
Since it is August, I thought I would provide three suggestions featuring wild blueberries as the prebiotic combined with different probiotic foods to give all more reasons to eat these delicious berries while they are in season.
Wild Blueberry Wine Cooler: This is essentially a smoothie with wine and I made mine in my Nutri-Bullet. Ironically, the Nutri-Bullet consumed more of the cooler than I did as the lid loosened while it was mixing and leaked all through the machine. Wine is the probiotic and the blueberries are the prebiotic. You can use red wine, if you like but it tastes better with white. And despite the headlines, white wine is just as beneficial for you as red wine. It is heart protective, anti-cancer and helps prevent or regulate Diabetes. While red wine contains more anti-aging resveratrol than white wine, research has discovered that white wine helps activate the gene Sirtuin 1 (SIRT1), which slows the aging process. White wine also contains two antioxidants that are not found in red wine; tyrosol and hydroxytyrosol (also found in olive oil).
Berries are all prebiotic but wild blueberries are especially high in healthy phytonutrients and prebiotic fibre. The smaller the berry, the higher the percentage of skin to pulp ratio. The skin contains most of the fibre plus 15 different types of phytonutrients. One of those phytonutrients is resveratrol, the same one found in red grapes, although the levels in blueberries are much lower than grapes.
Put this all together and the blueberries not only add to the health benefits of the white wine but your gut will be happy to with the synbiotic relationship of prebiotic blueberries with probiotic white wine.
2 glasses chilled white wine (I chose a sparkling wine – just seemed more festive)
1/2 cup wild blueberries
Pop the cork to open the wine. Put the wine and blueberries in to a blending machine and blend until the blueberry skins are no longer visible. If the blender is not good enough to fully emulsify the blueberry skin, you might be tempted the strain out the pieces. If you do, you will be removing a portion of the prebiotic fibre and the valuable phytonutrients. Can be made ahead and chilled. A perfect beverage for a summer get-together. Bon Appetit!
This delicious salad contains probiotic apple cider vinegar and prebiotics garlic, onions and, of course, wild blueberries. It also has corn (also in season), which contains resistant starch, another prebiotic. I chose cashews for this salad. However, if you want more prebiotic punch, you could add almonds but they must be in their skin for the best results. For another probiotic option, you could use balsamic vinegar, but it must be properly aged, which means it will be the more expensive version. You can mix the two vinegars together which is what I did. You can also add some yogurt to the dressing, if you would like more probiotics. It is that simple to build a probiotic/prebiotic combination and create a synbiotic meal.
1/2 cup organic corn nibs (if using fresh corn cobs, remove the corn from the cob and steam the corn)
1/2 cup wild blueberries
1 celery stick, chopped
2 tbsp lightly roasted cashews, chopped
1 tbsp thinly slice onion
1 -2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
4 cups mixed salad greens
Sea salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp olive oil
1 – 1 1/2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp raw honey
1 small clove garlic, chopped
Steam the corn until soft. Let cool. If using frozen corn, this may take a couple of minutes. If using fresh, it may take a bit longer to cook until soft. Place the corn, wild blueberries, celery, cashews, onion, and parsley in a bowl. Mix the dressing ingredients and pour onto the salad and mix. Season to taste. When ready to serve, mix in the greens and place on plates.
Even dessert can be constructed to be synbiotic. And it does not mean serving everything with yogurt. Whipping cream can be made into a probiotic by fermenting it with a small amount of kefir, yogurt or buttermilk. It can be sweetened with honey, maple syrup, coconut sweetener or organic sugar just like you would do with any regular whipping cream. It can be whipped as well to be thick and fluffy. Use it to top any dessert, or serve with the fresh berries for a simple synbiotic treat. The cream can also be mixed with a berry puree, sweetened to taste and churned into ice cream, if you have an ice cream machine.
If making a pie or other baked dessert using berries, using a whole grain flour such as wheat, spelt or kamut or for gluten free brown rice, corn or teff provides more prebiotic resistant starch. Even if you mix the whole grain with unbleached white flour, because it suits your taste pallet, you are still getting some resistant starch.
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