You’ve probably noticed the recent increase in fermented foods found in the Natural Food section of your favorite grocery store. Specialty shops are brimming with expensive gourmet food items such as organic yogurt, kefir, kombucha, and kimchi touting the benefit of fermented foods. Categorized as “probiotics”, these foods contain live active cultures that are beneficial for health. But did you know that all foods containing non-digestible carbohydrates are actually fermented in the body and produce similar health benefits? These foods contain fibers that are fermentable in the colon and are categorized as “prebiotics”, offering health benefits similar to those provided by probiotics. These foods are commonly found in most households and include beans, bananas, wheat bran, asparagus, unrefined oats, and barley.
Although fermented foods have been around for centuries, scientists have renewed interest in the impact on health of a diet which includes a combination of prebiotics and probiotics. While some individuals may have difficulty digesting certain foods containing non-digestible carbohydrates, studies have shown that people who maintain a healthy gut through diet may have a stronger immune system, reduction in colorectal cancer, and improved bowel function.
So what can you do to ensure you eat the right foods to maintain a healthy gut without spending a fortune?
- Try cooking with dried beans. Soak beans before cooking, changing the water once or twice while they soak. Use fresh water for cooking the beans and rinse after cooking.
- Try soups and side dishes filled with a good amount of prebiotics including asparagus, onion, jicama, Jerusalem artichoke, sliced berries and bananas.
- Enjoy products made with 100% whole wheat flour. Sprinkle raw wheat bran on cereals and in soups or stews.
Preserving intestinal well-being starts with a balance of intestinal flora. By eating a diet rich in pre- and probiotics, you’ll feed the intestinal microbiota that help maintain a healthy gut.
Livestrong.com, What Do Probiotics Do For Your Body? http://www.livestrong.com/article/418612-what-do-probiotics-do-for-your-body/
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Prebiotics and Probiotics: The Dynamic Duo, http://www.eatright.org/resource/food/vitamins-and-supplements/nutrient-rich-foods/prebiotics-and-probiotics-the-dynamic-duoSources
Dry Bean Quarterly, Vol. 5, No. 4
Written by: Jennifer Even, MEd, RD, LD, Extension Educator, OSU Extension, Hamilton County.
Reviewed by: Cheryl Spires, RD, LD, SNAP-Ed Program Specialist, Ohio State University Extension, West Region.