When you haven’t been getting enough sleep or eating a healthy diet, have high-stress levels or have been taking antibiotics, it can create an imbalance of the good and bad bacteria in your gut. You might experience gastrointestinal issues, like bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, reflux and indigestion.
This is where probiotic and prebiotic foods can help.
Probiotic foods provide us with live bacteria, that line our digestive tracts and help protect us against invading pathogens and support our bodies ability to absorb nutrients. They are our guts best defence and help swing overall bacteria balance towards positive, good bacteria. They help re-inoculate the gut with friendly, happy bacteria.
Whereas probiotics are live bacteria, prebiotics are not living, but instead act as food for those good and friendly bacteria in our guts. They are soluble, fermentable, non-digestible fibres and carbohydrates known as resistant starches – they resist our digestive systems, allowing them to travel to the colon and feed our bacteria!
Combining probiotic and prebiotic foods in a plate offers us the best of both biotic worlds. By combining the two different food groups, we are enhancing the effect of cultured foods and ensuring we get the maximum benefited from ingested probiotics, all of which can help improve our gut health. This synergistic combination has been termed – “synbiotic” eating.
And this is not a new concept. Eating fermented foods alongside soluble fibre has been a custom for centuries. In Eastern Europe, it is common to have sauerkraut alongside raw onions in a dish and in Asia adding kimchi and rice has been frequent practice.
Many of us reach to take probiotic supplements, but it is worth trying to increase your probiotic intake from whole food sources, rather than solely relying on supplements.
So with that in mind, see my favourite pre and probiotic go-to recipes.
BIOTIC BREAKFAST BOWL
Opting for Greek yogurt will provide you with hundreds of strains of diverse bacteria, including Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. Teaming this with a ripe banana, that offers fibre, glucose and carbohydrates, will provide your gut with food to ferment with. This process turns the fibre and carbohydrates into prebiotics. These prebiotics fuel the bacteria provided by the yogurt, helping boost the good bacteria you are ingesting.
- 150g of whole-fat, unsweetened Greek yogurt (make sure to buy the kind with live cultures) – you can also use Coconut yogurt or Almond yogurt if you are avoiding dairy but make sure to buy one with live cultures – Check out @Nush and @Rebel Kitchen
- ½ a ripe banana – you can tell a banana is ripe if it the skin is slightly green and it is hard
- A handful of bright and beautiful berries – think blueberries, raspberries and strawberries
- 1 tbsp of whole flaxseeds/linseeds
- 3 tbsp of whole jumbo oats – gluten-free if avoiding gluten
- Mixed nuts, chopped
- Cinnamon to flavour
- Top the yogurt with all the ingredients above and enjoy.
- Add cinnamon for natural sweetness. Cinnamon has been proven to help control blood sugar levels and is a source of antioxidants. Make sure to buy real cinnamon, as there are many fake cinnamon powders out there. Look for Ceylon cinnamon. My go-to is Lucy Bee’s cinnamon powder.
GUT BOOSTING THREE BEAN CHILLI
Makes enough for four people. Batch make and freeze leftovers for last minute or easy lunch and dinners.
- 420g can kidney beans
- 400g can of organic chopped tomatoes
- 410g can black beans, drained
- 410g can adzuki beans, drained
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 5 clove garlic, chopped
- 1 tsp chilli powder
- 1 tsp raw unpasteurised honey
- Pinch of sea salt
- ½ a lime
- In a large pot, cook brown or black rice/quinoa according to the instructions on the packet. Make enough for those eating fresh, as it is not advised to cook the rice and then freeze it. When cooked (this should be 30 minutes) rinse of any starch and leave to cool a little before eating
- In a large saucepan heat the coconut oil, then add the ½ the onion and 1 clove of garlic and fry for two minutes until soft and golden.
- Add the chilli powder and fry for a further minute.
- Add all the beans, salt and honey, then stir thoroughly to combine.
- Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes. Whilst simmering add in the rest of the chopped onion and chopped garlic. Stir occasionally.
- Serve with a dollop of full-fat Greek yogurt or coconut yogurt (with live cultures) and a squeeze of fresh lime.
TUMMY TEMPTING TEMPEH & KIMCHI STIR FRY
Studies have shown that soy-based tempeh helps promote the growth of Bifidobacterium, a type of good bacteria, that boosts immunity and fights disease.
The prebiotic fibre from asparagus will help carry over good bacteria from the buckwheat in your noodles. If you opt for quinoa or brown rice, this will give you an additional boost of prebiotics too.
- 10-15 asparagus spears
- 1-2 red and yellow bell peppers, chopped
- 100g of tempeh
- 1 tbsp of coconut oil
- 1 tbsp of Kimchi
- 25g organic fresh miso paste
- 1 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 5 tablespoons tamari/soy sauce/coconut aminos
- 1 tablespoons minced green onions
- 1 tablespoons fresh ginger, sliced super thin
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- Buckwheat noodles to serve
- Trim away the thick bottom ends of the asparagus. Then cut the asparagus spears in half. Cut the tempeh into 1-inch cubes.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the marinade ingredients until combined.
- Add the cubed tempeh to the bowl with the sauce. Toss well. Let it marinate for about half an hour. The longer you let it marinate, the better the flavour!
- Heat a large wok or frying pan with the coconut oil. Pull out the tempeh from the marinade and save the liquid. Add the tempeh to the wok, and sauté for 3 minutes or until the tempeh is lightly browned.
- Add the asparagus spears and stir 1 minute. Pour the reserved marinade liquid into the work, and let it boil for about a minute or till the asparagus is tender, but still a little crisp.
- Serve with a handful size portion of buckwheat noodles or other whole grains such as quinoa, brown/ black rice and top with kimchi.
STOMACH STRENGTHENING SMOOTHIE
- 1 cup/250g of organic unsweetened whole milk kefir or coconut kefir
- 1 apple chopped, with skin on
- 1/4 cup raw dandelion greens (if you can’t get a hold of these swap for another green veggie such as spinach)
- 1/2 ripe banana, chopped
- 5 tbsp of jumbo oats
- ½ tbsp of whole flax seeds
- Blend all the ingredients except the flax seeds together until smooth
- Sprinkle with flax seeds at the end to keep them whole