“The one thing all experts do agree on, when it comes to getting your probiotics, along with vitamins and minerals: it’s best to eat foods rather than take supplements,” so writes Keri Molvar for Allure magazine. But what if you could find a supplement made out of food?
That is the question that Jules Miller, founder of Nue Co. asked when she went looking for a quality probiotic supplement, and “found pills and powders made with synthetic ingredients, chemicals and fillers that ultimately weren't doing much for her body.”
Ms. Miller founded the Nue Co and makes her natural, powder-based supplements entirely from “real” foods. Their products are variously designed to help boost energy, support digestion, maintain gorgeous skin, and more, but before we talk about them, let’s step back and remind ourselves:
What are probiotics? What are prebiotics? How can they make a difference for the way you look and feel?
Probiotics and prebiotics
The key to digestive health is nurturing a balance among the nearly 500 to 1,000 different species of bacteria that live in your gut. As you might imagine, the food you eat plays an important role in determining what that balance looks like.
Probiotics are beneficial (good) bacteria.
Pathogenic (bad) bacteria can outgrow the good as a result of antibiotics, improperly prepared foods, excess sugar or fat in your diet, stress, and lack of sleep. Bad bacteria can cause infection, or make us sick, and are often the source of digestive discomfort.
Probiotics, meanwhile, help protect you from harmful bacteria and fungi. They also send signals to your immune system and help regulate inflammation. Maintaining a healthy balance is all about helping the good bacterial cultures grow by giving them the foods they like (prebiotics) and by adding living microbes directly to your system.
Food and nutrition for digestive health
Probiotics are found in certain foods and in probiotic supplements. They directly add to the population of healthy microbes in your gut and provide numerous health benefits.
The most common probiotic food is yogurt, but not just any yogurt will do. You will want to choose plain yogurt that is neither pasteurized (this process kills the bacteria) nor full of sugars (this feeds the bad bacteria). Most fruit-flavored yogurts have loads of sugar. Look for “live cultures” on the label to be sure you are getting the good stuff.
Good sources of probiotics include kefir, kimchee, sauerkraut, and other foods that go through a natural fermentation process. Olives. Some pickles (though not those brined in vinegar). While popular, and perhaps good for you, we do not yet know if kombucha is good for your gut. Despite all the health claims about kombucha, nutrition experts say there’s not enough scientific evidence yet to support most of them.
Prebiotics, meanwhile, are foods (or supplements derived from foods) that help restore and maintain friendly bacteria. They include the fiber found in vegetables, fruits and legumes. That fiber is not digestible by humans, but your good gut bacteria will party down!
Foods that are high in prebiotic fiber include: beans and peas, oats, bananas, berries, asparagus, garlic, leeks, and onions. You can also take a supplement designed to address your particular health concerns.