Food is a concept that everyone is familiar with. We need food to live and many of us live for good food. However, what we consume can have varying effects on our bodies, particularly our gut.
The role of our gut is to breakdown the food we eat and absorb its nutrients, but some foods can irritate the gut and cause gut-related problems.
On the other hand, there are foods that are good for our gut by enhancing its function and gut-health. Many of these foods contain probiotics.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host¹. They can kill off bad bacteria in the gut and prevent them from sticking to gut walls, promoting a better bacteria composition in the gut.
Some of these foods also contain other important nutrients that benefit the gut, such as fiber. Fiber is what helps to keep our stools soft and regular, regulating our bowel movements to maintain optimal digestive health.
Foods containing prebiotics also benefit our gut health. Prebiotics are soluble fibers that are not digested in the gut. They provide useful nutrients that help with probiotic growth² and enhance their survivability in the gut to increase the efficacy of probiotics.
Where can where do we find such foods that help with our gut health?
There is a lot of foods good for our gut, such as kimchi and miso, but they may not be readily accessible in the grocery stores near you. Hence, here are some foods that are easier and more convenient to find and consume!
Yogurt is something we are all familiar with. Made by fermenting milk with probiotics³, the fermentation process favors the probiotics’ growth. This results in the thick and creamy yogurt rich with probiotics that can aid in digestion of food.
You can find yogurt in every dairy section of any supermarket or grocery store. There are many kinds of yogurt available, but they all contain probiotics nevertheless. Thus, eating yogurt will be able to enhance your gut function due to the probiotics consumed.
What’s great about it is that it’s convenient too - there’s no need to cook it or prepare it, you can eat it straight out of its container. It can be incorporated as a snack or even as breakfast with other fruits. It is a versatile probiotic-rich food that is worth adding into your diet.
Another probiotic-rich food that you can commonly find in the dairy section is cheese.
The live probiotics naturally present in the unpasteurised milk⁴ used to make cheese can survive the process of cheese-making and aging. In addition, the probiotics can also fight off bad bacteria that may manifest during the cheese-making process⁵. This makes cheese another viable source of probiotics for the gut.
Not all cheeses may contain these live probiotics, however. If the cheese or milk used has been heated during the production process, the cheese will not have probiotics as the hot temperature from heating may kill off any live probiotic strains. Thus, when looking at cheeses in the dairy section, look for labels indicating the cheese is “raw” or “made from raw milk”. This ensures that the cheese went through its natural aging process.
Garlic is widely used across the world and is a staple ingredient in many of the dishes we make. This fragrant ingredient is rich in a prebiotic called inulin, boasting about 18 grams of inulin per 100 grams of garlic⁶.
The inulin present can enhance the probiotics’ benefits in the gut. In addition, garlic itself contains a substance called “garlic fructan”, which is a major component of garlic. Garlic fructan was shown to stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, enhancing gut health⁷.
There’s no need to eat your garlic bulbs raw, but you can consider using them more in your daily cooking.
Almonds are an easy way to obtain prebiotics and fiber. Consuming 100 grams of almonds can provide 11 grams of fiber⁸. This makes our stools softer for smoother bowel movements to reduce constipation. Almonds have also been shown to possess prebiotic properties, as the consumption of almonds were found to increase the population of good bacteria in the gut and suppress bad bacteria⁹.
These fiber-rich nuts are readily available in the nuts section of your grocery stores and can be eaten as a snack. Do look for baked almonds instead of the roasted kinds if you want a healthier option.
Perhaps some of us already enjoy these food items and have been actively consuming them. If so, good for you and your gut! However, some of us may be allergic to them and are unable to stomach such foods. If so, you may check out our previous article for other foods containing probiotics, or you can choose to take probiotic supplements such as Pro-Gut™. These supplements are easier to consume and are convenient and tasteless.
There are a lot of options to access probiotics, but at the end of the day, do choose the food items that you like and are right for you. This is how you can treat yourself and your gut right.
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Jayarathna, G.N., Jayasena, D.D. and Mudannayake, D.C. (2022). Garlic Inulin as a Fat Replacer in Vegetable Fat Incorporated Low-Fat Chicken Sausages. Food Science of Animal Resources, [online] 42(2), pp.295–312.
Zhang, N., Huang, X., Zeng, Y., Wu, X. and Peng, X. (2013). Study on prebiotic effectiveness of neutral garlic fructan in vitro. Food Science and Human Wellness, 2(3-4), pp.119–123.
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Liu, Z., Lin, X., Huang, G., Zhang, W., Rao, P. and Ni, L.(2014). Prebiotic effects of almonds and almond skins on intestinal microbiota in healthy adult humans. Anaerobe, 26, pp.1–6.
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