We are in the time of the microbiome! In the past decade numerous studies revealing the invisible world of bugs in our gut and skin and how their well-being directly impacts our overall health has pushed the awareness of prebiotics and probiotics to a whole new level. Not just clean eating, vegan, and paleo blogs are pushing the importance of the microbiome, but even mainstream news. Large Big Food companies are trying to jump into the fray by selling probiotic foods, either by buying out well-known “green” companies or creating new brands. (Click on this link and you will be amazed how Big Food has taken over organic companies.)
Regardless of the producers of fermented, probiotic foods, it would behoove all of us to consume a diet high in prebiotic and prebiotic foods. Among others, a diet high in both leads to:
- Improved mood (due to production of serotonin in gut)
- Better digestive health
- Stronger immune system
- Less auto-immune disorders
- Better weight maintenance
There is a constant battle in your body between pathogenic bacteria on one side, trying to get you sick, and probiotic bacteria and your immune system on the other, trying to protect you. A preponderance of the latter leads to better well-being and optimal health. But what is the best way to reach that goal? Finding great synbiotic combos!
Synbiotics: Merging the Peanut Butter & Jelly
To review, prebiotic foods are fermented foods that contain live active bacteria or fungus. Prebiotic foods are foods that help grow the trillions of bacteria of your microbiome naturally. Though consuming a diet high in probiotic foods would certainly help your microbiome, the far easier way is to eat a diet high in prebiotic foods. Whereas Greek yogurt main contain 15 billion CFUs of bacteria, that is only a drop in the bucket to the TRILLION of bacteria and fungus in your microbiome. Prebiotic foods grow those trillions of bugs naturally. Also, whereas many probiotic foods may be pricey (think of kombucha), the good news is that most prebiotic foods are relatively inexpensive (think of produce).
In short, synbiotics is ingesting a prebiotic and probiotic food at the same time to optimize the benefit of both. When consumed together it creates a synergistic effect. We, here at Naturopathic Earth, offer 5 easy synbiotic combos!
Greek Yogurt with Honey
Greek Yogurt is the most inexpensive prebiotic food. It is a great source of fat, calcium, protein, and low in carbs (especially when purchasing unflavored varieties). It is also low in lactose to help those with dairy allergies. Make sure to get full-fat Greek yogurt with the most strands of bacteria and preferable organic to avoid rBST/rBGH. (Read our Review of the Best Greek Yogurt brands for more information.)
Honey is one the most perfected, unadulterated non-sugar sweeteners on the planet. It is full of phytonutrients, minerals, enzymes, and antioxidants. Ideally, purchase organic honey. (Read our Review of non-sugar sweeteners for more information.)
Combining Greek Yogurt & Honey will bring bliss to your mouth and microbiome. Throw in low-glycemic fruits (e.g. berries), chia seeds, and alike to optimize your yogurt bowl. (See our recipe on Best Yogurt Bowl.)
Kefir with Unripened Bananas
Kefir is a Near East yogurt drink that has gained popularity in the last decade. Those living in the Levante have been enjoying it for hundreds of years. It boasts the same nutrient-dense goodness as Greek Yogurt but in higher amounts. In America, the most well-known kefir brand is Lifeway. Just beware that Lifeway’s products have loads of sugar since they are flavored. You can also make your own kefir. Check out this kefir starter kit!
Unripened, green bananas are the most inexpensive prebiotic, resistant-starch foods. To entice you even more, green bananas have 1/4 the sugar than ripened ones and are more nutrient-dense when unripened.
Cut up your unripened bananas and throw them in a bowl with kefir, nuts, pumpkin seeds to make a great synbiotic tandem!
Kombucha with Chia Seeds
“Love the booch!” Kombucha is fermented black tea with a dash of sugar and fruits. It is an acquired taste. (Incidentally, I offer extra credit to students who bring in a probiotic foods. Many of them bring in kombucha, with perhaps 1/2 loathing the taste. Like apple cider vinegar, I tolerate the taste.)
With kombucha, opt for the one lowest in sugar and highest in strands of bacteria and fungus. (Check out our article or podcast on Sugar-Laden Superfoods.). Also opt for organic since much of our tea supply is imported from nations that spray an un-Godly amount of pesticides on it. If you are interested in make your own batch of kombucha at home, click here to purchase a great set on Amazon. In the long run, it saves you so much money to make your own.
Chia Seeds are best seeds on the planet, for they boast a obscene amount of unsaturated fats coupled with fiber. Low-carb and a great chameleon, for chia seeds may be sprinkled on a wide assortment of foods, from ice cream to eggs…from salads to practically any entree. It is tasteless, but highly nutrient-dense.
Raw Milk Smoothie with Dark Chocolate, Nut Butter, and Flax Seed
Raw milk is as the name suggests straight from the cow. It is unpasteurized, meaning it has not been heated up to high temperatures to kill the bacteria. While some of the bacteria may be pathogenic, much of it is probiotic so sadly you are “throwing out the baby with the bathwater.” Those with dairy allergies should stay away from raw milk, but for others raw milk is milk par excellence. Find it at farmer’s markets or co-ops.
Mix in whatever tasty ingredients you want into the blender with the raw milk to make your smoothie. I would recommend you throw in Greek yogurt to give it some frothiness (and more probiotic goodness), but throw in some prebiotics as well. As mentioned unripened bananas, honey, and chia seeds would be great additions, but consider also throwing in flax or pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate, almonds, berries, a tad of ginger, cinnamon, all of which are prebiotic and super nutrient-dense.
Miso Soup with Onion, Leeks, and Asparagus
Let’s not forget the non-sweet synbiotic combos! Miso Soup is a staple in East Asia restaurants. It is a soup of fermented soybeans mixed with rice, barley and other ingredients. Though I am not a big proponent of soybeans, exceptions may be made for this food high in protein and nutrients. It is a great probiotic addition to your diet, especially on a cold day.
Supplement your miso with a variety of prebiotic items. Luckily, most prebiotic foods are vegetables so it should not be hard. Add prebiotic mainstays, such as raw onion, leeks, asparagus, artichokes, radishes, or cabbage, to augment your miso to make it irresistible!
Consider adding any of the aforementioned vegetables into sauerkraut, kimchi, or natto, all of which are fermented, probiotic foods. Or opt for dark chocolate, which is both prebiotic and probiotic! Lastly, you can purchase pre-packaged synbiotic powders that contain both live cultures and resistant-starch ingredients. If money is no object or if you eat a pretty lousy diet, consider this route. Click Here to see a great synbiotic formula!
Of course, you can do any combination of prebiotic and probiotic foods to make your synbiotic combos. If you prefer your Greek yogurt with pumpkin seeds instead of honey, by all means substitute it out. These synbiotic duos are solely suggestions. Find one that works best for your palette and your tummy!
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A. Gregory Luna
(We would appreciate your comments below. What is your favorite synbiotic combo?)