Probiotics and prebiotics: bacteria that love us well

Probiotics and prebiotics are experiencing an unprecedented fad in the healthy nutrition market. Is this just a fad or is there a real benefit to your health? The Nutriscope tells you all about these bacteria that love you well.

Of life in our intestines

Let’s be clear: our body is colonized! Our digestive system is home to no less than 100,000 million bacteria of 200 different species, which represents almost 2 kg of our body weight. There is no reason to panic, the bacteria in the intestinal flora are harmless. Better yet, they are even necessary for good health.

Its functions are diverse. Logically, they participate in the digestion and assimilation of food, in particular thanks to processes known as “putrefaction” and “fermentation”. The intestinal flora also plays a nutritional role as it promotes the synthesis of certain essential nutrients, such as vitamins K and B12.

Bacteria in our intestines (called “commensal”) also play a key role in our immunity. They play a competitive role against bacteria responsible for diseases. In short, the harmless bacteria in our bodies occupy places that, in their absence, would be occupied by “dangerous” bacteria.

Probiotics and prebiotics: what are the differences?

The term “probiotic” refers to the harmless and helpful bacteria found in our intestines. They constitute the intestinal flora. By consuming probiotics through a balanced diet, the body can renew the stock of bacteria.

The term “prebiotic” refers to the nutritional elements that maintain the balance of the intestinal flora. These are fibers that we cannot digest, but that probiotics “feed” on to function. They are called celluloses or lignin.

Clearly, probiotics and prebiotics are closely related as the former cannot live without the other. If the balance of the intestinal microbiota is not maintained, disorders are systematically observed: persistent obesity, malnutrition, digestive disorders, inflammation, special sensitivity to diseases, etc. Such involvement in our health has earned our digestive system the nickname “second brain.”

Food sources of probiotics and prebiotics.

With the market booming, it is above all probiotics and prebiotics in the form of food supplements that are currently in the spotlight. But a balanced diet can play this role and easily meet all of our needs, both probiotics and prebiotics.

The best sources of probiotics are fermented products. Its manufacturing processes allow the development of bacteria that, once ingested, are transferred to our intestines. These include sauerkraut, fermented milks (yogurts, kefir), sourdough bread, hard cheeses (gouda, emmental, comté, etc.), or even fermented soy products (tempeh, miso, etc.). Consuming these foods occasionally and in reasonable amounts fully satisfies everyone’s probiotic needs.

Prebiotics are insoluble fibers found in plant foods.

Fruits and vegetables are a very interesting source, especially legumes (lentils, chickpeas, etc.), vegetables from the cabbage family, and dried fruits (almonds, walnuts, dried fruits).

Starchy foods can also be an excellent source of prebiotics if eaten whole – therefore whole wheat bread and whole grains are preferred.

Although consumed in small amounts, seeds (pumpkin, flax, sunflower, etc.) are important sources of prebiotics. Its outer layer is made of cellulose, the prebiotic fiber par excellence.

Therefore, probiotics and prebiotics are essential for good daily health, and not just from a digestive point of view. A balanced and varied diet largely covers the needs of all probiotics and prebiotics, in particular thanks to common and very accessible foods: fruits and vegetables, yogurts, breads, whole starchy foods, cheeses, etc.

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