Your overall health is determined in large part by your gut health, with about 70% of your immune system residing in your gut. You have around 100 trillion live bacteria in your gut, both good and bad, and they make up your gut microbiome. The good bacteria help you digest the food you eat, they protect and strengthen the lining of your gut to keep bad bacteria from leaking into your bloodstream, they fight off harmful bacteria, and they guide your immune system to help it decide where to fight. When there is an imbalance of good to bad bacteria in your gut, this can lead to a variety of diseases including obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s. One of the main factors affecting this balance is the food you eat.
The good bacteria in your gut are known as probiotics, and they’re the ones that help keep your gut healthy. Prebiotics are certain types of plant-based fiber that are difficult for your body to digest, so they travel down to the large intestine where the probiotics feed on them so they can grow and thrive. Prebiotics feed probiotics, so they’re both important for your gut health.
While probiotics develop in your gut, you can also eat foods that contain these live beneficial bacteria. The best sources are fermented and cultured foods including yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, apple cider vinegar, miso, kombucha, and sourdough bread. You can also take probiotic supplements.
There are many foods that contain the prebiotic fibers that feed the probiotics in your gut. Some of the best ones are dark chocolate (surprise!), walnuts, onions, oats, asparagus, green plantains, apples, leeks, yuca, flaxseeds, and pulses (dried beans, peas, and lentils).
When you’re deciding what to eat, don’t forget to include some goodies for your gut.