Matt Preston on the importance of probiotics and prebiotics

Do probiotics really offer any benefit to your health? Well, maybe. But as you’ll soon discover, if they taste good, you’re winning either way.

After a two-year carb-fest of banana bread and sourdough, it was only logical that the pendulum would swing back. ‘Fresh and nourishing’ is the mantra now. Searches for this word combo on are up 15 per cent.

But ‘nourishing’ is not always so clear cut. In the US, the Food and Drug Administration is clamping down on spurious health claims, proposing guidelines that food products claiming to be healthy must contain a certain amount of a food group – such as fruit, vegetables, dairy or grains – and limited amounts of saturated fats, added sugars and sodium.

Hand-in-hand with the growth of fresh and nourishing over comfort food is an interest in probiotics – one of our top health searches, up 200 per cent in the past year.

Basically, it revolves around the theory that our wellbeing is heavily influenced by healthy flora (colonies of good bacteria) in our gut.

Eating probiotic-rich foods augmented by prebiotic fibres helps good gut bacteria thrive.

It sounds simple enough, but if you cook probiotic-rich foods, you kill off that good bacteria. Cheat’s pickles loaded with salt and sugar will do the same.

Basically, you want the good bacteria that come from the natural fermentation of foods like sauerkraut, lacto-fermented pickles and authentic kimchi, kefir or yoghurt.

Cultured creme fraiche and butter have their place, as do good tempeh and miso, some raw honeys and some raw milk cheeses.

But there are two problems. Firstly, these ingredients can be both pricey and hard to find.

Secondly, although there is evidence that probiotics can help with conditions like IBS, there’s little evidence that they offer benefit to healthy people. And that’s coming from reputable sources like the NHS in the UK, Harvard Medical School and journals like Scientific American.

That’s pretty amazing when you think that this is a $40 billion market worldwide.

It’s also worth remembering that good bacteria come in many forms; what’s good for others may not be of any benefit to you – our guts are as individual as we are.

Probiotics taken orally also need to contain bacteria that can survive highly acidic stomach conditions so they can make it to your gut. And always consult your health professional before starting any probiotic regime.

Prebiotics – fibres believed to support good bacteria growth – include oats, legumes, peas and leafy greens. Best are veg that include the fibre inulin, like chicory, onion, jicama and Jerusalem artichoke. (Note: breaking down the inulin in Jerusalem artichokes is what makes them farty. You have been warned.)

Fruit like apples, bananas and blueberries are apparently good, too.

If you want to find out if probiotics do anything for you, go for what tastes good. That way, even if it doesn’t work, you’ve at least eaten something tasty.

I’m talking about things like kimchi on scrambled eggs or in bossam lettuce wraps with sliced jicama and pulled pork.

Or a shredded kale, blueberry, apple, jicama and tempeh salad with a raw miso and orange juice dressing; or a warm grilled vegie salad with a dressing of miso, tahini and finely grated parmesan.

A little raw honey for sweetness or yoghurt for creaminess are welcome in both.

You can also start your day with my kefir muesli.

Originally published as Matt Preston shares his gut feeling on probiotics

Originally published as Matt Preston on the importance of probiotics and prebiotics

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