You’re already familiar with the concept of probiotics—you took your daily supplement with a side of yogurt just this morning, thank you very much. But even with all that good bacteria in your gut, there's one more thing you could do to maximize your microbiome health ever further. You could combine your probiotics with prebiotics.
In case you’re not super familiar with the term, prebiotics are “a nondigestible compound that, through its metabolization by microorganisms in the gut, modulates composition and/or activity of the gut microbiota, thus conferring a beneficial physiologic effect on the host,” according to the medical journal Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology.
Translation: They’re specific types of dietary fiber that serve as food for the live, healthy bacteria in your gut.
Basically, the more prebiotics those probiotics have, the more effective they are at supporting your gut microbiome. (Think about how you feel at 3 p.m. when you miss lunch.) And FYI, it’s not just about improving your immune system or digestive tract. The gut microbiome has also been linked to skin, heart and even brain health. Per The New York Times, “scientists are finding evidence that the microbiome may play a role not just in Alzheimer’s disease, but Parkinson’s disease, depression, schizophrenia, autism and other conditions.” Mind-blowing.
If you’re all in on giving those digestive flora something to snack on, look for prebiotic supplements with universally agreed-upon ingredients like fructooligosaccharides, inulin and galactooligosaccharides. (Don’t worry, you don’t have to say them out loud; just check the labels.) Even better, a lot of high-fiber foods you already eat are chock-full of prebiotics. Jicama, artichokes, apples, bananas, asparagus, garlic, shallots, onions and whole grains (like bran, barley and oats) are some of your best options.
You know what that means: We’ll be making Ina Garten’s chicken with 40 cloves of garlic for dinner tonight (and stocking up on breath mints in the meantime).