Let’s talk gut health for a minute!
Now, there’s all this talk about probiotic supplements and yeah, that’s an option. In fact, in some cases, adding a probiotic to your daily routine could have benefit. But if we’re talking a basic maintenance plan, you can support a healthy gut by incorporating whole foods.
The best part? Many of these things are likely already laying around on your kitchen counter or chilling in your fridge.
Anytime we’re talking foods for gut health, I like to point out there’s two strategies we can use in combination. First, we want to introduce more beneficial bugs…thus, probiotic foods. But we also want to support an environment where these tiny guys can thrive and do their thing…thus, prebiotic foods. When we have the two working together, we create a symbiotic relationship. And that’s a good thing!
Probiotic Foods for Gut Health
There’s no shortage of posts out there that break down the benefits of probiotic foods. Here’s a sampling of my favorite resources from fellow dietitians.
- What are Probiotics? by Lively Table
- Go With Your Gut: Healthy From The Inside Out by Nutrition Nuptials
- How to Increase Your Probiotic Intake by Bucket List Tummy
- Best Ways To Get Your Probiotics, Ranked by Natalie Rizzo for Greatist
As you scan the lists of some common probiotic foods, you’ll notice the common theme here is fermentation. Different foods have varying amounts and some of them are likely not foods we’re enjoying on a daily basis. But introducing more of these foods can bring benefit so get creative!
To recap, here’s the best of the best for probiotic foods:
- Kefir, yogurt, and other fermented dairy products
- Sauerkraut and kimchi
- Tempeh and Natto
Prebiotic Foods for Gut Health
When you hear “prebiotic” think “fiber.” But not just any fiber, we want the particular starches that can be broken down by probiotic bacteria and converted to short-chain fatty acids. These fibers aren’t affected by heat or acid (probiotics are) so what you eat is what you get – adding more of these foods to your diet can help support a healthy gut without making other significant changes!
- Garlic, Leeks, and Onions
- Oats, Beans, and Barley
- Jerusalem Artichoke
- Flax seeds
One thing to point out is that while prebiotic fiber can be beneficial, there are some people who struggle to tolerate it and experience severe or painful GI side effects. That’s because some of these same starches are high FODMAP foods. FODMAP is an acronym that stand for “Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols.” Whew…what a mouthful. No wonder we needed an acronym.
But for those who life with IBS, Crohn’s Disease, or other conditions that affect the GI tract, it doesn’t make sense to add more prebiotic foods that are going to cause symptoms or trigger flares. So here’s a few examples of prebiotic foods that are considered low-FODMAP friendly.
- Buckwheat Groats
- Kiwi and Banana
- Canned Lentils
- Red Cabbage, Fennel, and Leeks (green portion only)
For this recipe challenge, I wanted to create something quick, simple, and very easy to make with familiar ingredients. A smoothie seemed to be calling my name, so I rounded up some pantry staples and went to work!
In this mix we have probiotics in the kefir. I’m partial to the plain version of Lifeway Kefir (Disclosure: I am a Lifeway Kefir ambassador). It’s not too sweet so you can control the final flavor based on how much honey or spice you choose to add. Then our prebiotic sources are found in the oats, banana, and honey, with a little additional fiber coming from the hemp hearts.
Whip it up in a high-power blender and you’ll have a smooth, creamy consistency. Even in a smaller blender, the oats should still blend enough to create a texture suitable for sipping. Adjust the flavor as needed, and enjoy!
Banana Chai Smoothie
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Yield: 1 serving
1/4 cup old fashioned or rolled oats
1/2 cup plain kefir
1 teaspoon honey
1 small banana
1 Chai Tea teabag
3 to 6 ice cubes
Dash of cinnamon
1/2 Tablespoon hemp hearts
Combine the oats, kefir, honey, banana, and contents of the teabag into your blender. Add the ice cubes and blend on high until the ice is broken up and the consistency is smooth and creamy. Adjust flavor as needed with additional honey or cinnamon.
Pour into a glass and garnish with a sprinkle of cinnamon and the hemp hearts. Serve immediately.
Any variety of chai tea will work for this recipe, so find a brand and flavor that fits your taste preferences. For a milder flavor, use half of the contents of the teabag.
Be sure to check out the rest of the recipes coming out of this month’s Recipe ReDux. It’s the first and only recipe challenge created by dietitians, so you know they’re going to be the perfect balance of great taste and nutrition!