Raw foods: pre and probiotics

Just a fad, or actually good for your health? Do you have a bowel disorder, eczema, stress or even chronic fatigue? You might find that probiotics do you some good!

Raw foods: pre and probiotics

Industrial and processed foods, aggressive cooking methods and even a lack of variety in the foods we eat: all of these factors make our diets poor in vitamins and minerals and rich in empty calories, stopping us from meeting our bodies' needs. And the effect of these dietary habits on our general health isn't negligible: digestive disorders, chronic fatigue, irritability, anxiety and even chronic illnesses caused by a weakened immune system.
Our bodies need real foods from a diet that's packed with energy and life. 

Ever heard people talking about pre and probiotics? What are they for? What's the difference between the two? And above all, where do you find them? Let's go!

Prebiotics versus probiotics

These two terms often get mixed up. But despite being related, they play a very different role. You can't have one without the other. 

Probiotics

These are living microorganisms like bacteria. They live alongside the 100 trillion other bacteria in our guts. They include:
* lactic acid bacteria (lactobacillus, bifidobacterium);
* some yeast.

Fun fact: they're defined by the WHO as "live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host".

Prebiotics

These are the molecules present in plant fibres, in the form of either natural complex carbohydrates called oligosaccharides (when composed of a single type of sugar) or polysaccharides (when they contain different sugars). These molecules can withstand gastric juices and won't be digested by our intestinal enzymes. They're fermented by the bacteria in the colon, helping the development and action of probiotics.

Probiotics are living (bacteria) while prebiotics are non-living compounds that appear in foods rich in simple or complex carbohydrates (sugar, vegetables, fruit, legumes and cereals).

What are prebiotics for?

Their role is very simple: prebiotics feed probiotics so that they can grow and proliferate in our guts.
Here's an analogy to help you: prebiotics are the fertiliser that lets the plant (the probiotic) grow. They boost the effect of probiotics.

What are probiotics for?

Pillars of our health

Our intestines are where numerous metabolic processes take place. They are also home to thousands of neurones and nearly 70% of our immune cells!
The walls of our intestines are covered with micro-organisms: our gut flora. This microbiome is composed of good bacteria and bad bacteria, which live alongside one another in perfect balance. This state of balance ensures good digestion and assimilation of nutrients from our food, and maintains our mental and immune health. Being healthy is therefore intimately linked to having a balanced gut!

Rebalancing our gut flora

When the gut flora in our intestines are disrupted, the harmful bacteria can take over and make our bodies more vulnerable. This is where probiotics and their anti-microbial powers come in.

They rebalance the gut flora, help the body get rid of the germs responsible for illness, and stimulate the growth of good bacteria. They act in different ways:
* they regulate the immune system;
* they help fight infection and control the body's excessive immune reactions (such as allergies);
* they fight irritable bowel syndrome;
* they regulate intestinal transit.

These living micro-organisms play a central role in maintaining our gut health and therefore our general health. So it's important to enrich our diets with probiotics, then help them to grow by providing them with fuel (prebiotics).

Foods rich in prebiotics

Prebiotics are part of the dietary fibre family. But be careful: not all dietary fibre is a prebiotic!
Foods that are currently considered to be prebiotics are inulin, fructooligosaccharides (or FOS), galacto-oligosaccharides (or GOS) and lactulose.

Here's a list of foods rich in prebiotics (foods followed by a "+" are particularly rich in prebiotics and/or scientifically proven):

In vegetables

Garlic +++
Artichoke +++
Chicory +++
Onion ++
Parsnip ++
Asparagus ++
Leek ++
Beetroot +
Broccoli +
Cabbage +
Endive +
Dandelion +

In legumes

Lentils +
Chickpeas +
Kidney beans +

In fruit

Pineapple +
Banana +
Nectarine +
Grapefruit +
Peach +

In cereals

Wholewheat ++
Rye ++ 

Foods rich in probiotics

Rather than taking probiotics in the form of food supplements, as you often see people do, it's more economical to eat them in their natural form as part of your normal diet. 

You'll find them in products such as:
* fermented milk products;
* fermented cabbage or sauerkraut;
* lacto-fermented condiments: gherkins, pickled onions or other pickled vegetables (such as the famous Japanese pickles);
* soy derivatives: tempeh, miso;
* olives;
* kefir or kombucha: naturally fizzy drinks that can be found in health food shops or that you can very easily make at home.

In certain very specific cases, particularly after taking antibiotics that have damaged your gut flora, it's recommended that you complement your pre and probiotic-rich diet with probiotics, prebiotics or synbiotics (prebiotics + probiotics) in the form of a food supplement.

Now you know everything you need to build a strong gut. You don't need to eat all of these foods with every meal. The main thing is to vary your diet.
Tip: keep this list to hand and pick 2 or 3 prebiotic-rich foods and 2 or 3 probiotic-rich foods when writing your next shopping list.

Raw foods: pre and probiotics

alexandra

Naturopath & Yoga Teacher - Diet and Sport Consultant

To find out more, visit my website: