Your Most-Asked Questions About Nutrition: Why are probiotics & prebiotics important?

Probiotics are live microorganisms – often called “good bacteria” – that are found in our intestines. These microorganisms can help break down and digest food, fight inflammation, and generally keep a healthy balance of gut bacteria. Good sources of probiotics include fermented foods and drinks, like yogurt, kefir, miso, kombucha, sauerkraut, and kimchi. Take care not to boil or overcook these foods, as this will kill beneficial bacteria. Our Vegetable Miso Soup is a good example of how to add a food like miso to a hot dish. 

A lot of research is still being done to understand all the ways in which prebiotics work in the gut, but generally, prebiotics act as food for your gut bacteria. They can help regulate bowel movements, help your body make hormones that signal hunger and fullness, improve your immune system, and increase good gut bacteria. Prebiotic foods are high in fermentable soluble fiber. All plant foods – fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans – are rich in fiber, so vary the type of plant foods you eat to get the most prebiotic benefits. 

Cooking With Probiotics

Cooking with probiotics can be tricky since high heat often kills the beneficial organisms. For the best probiotic effect, it’s ideal to consume these foods raw. However, some research suggests heat-treated probiotics may still offer health benefits. Probiotic-rich foods like yogurt, miso, tempeh, sauerkraut, and kimchi are versatile and can add tangy flavors and nutrients to various dishes, from dressings and soups to marinades and grilled items.

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