Your gut microbiome is a complex ecosystem of microbes, such as bacteria and viruses, living in your gastrointestinal tract. While you may not even know this community of living things is inside your body, it has a tremendous effect on your health. In fact, keeping this microbiome healthy can help keep you healthy. Therefore, we must feed it what it wants: prebiotics and probiotics.
Prebiotics are non-digestible food components found naturally in some foods. They become the food for probiotics and help stimulate the growth of good bacteria. Prebiotics are found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, such as onions, artichokes, asparagus and bananas. Probiotics, on the other hand, are live “good” bacteria. They are naturally found in your gut, but also come through food and supplements. Probiotics may help improve immunity and digestion and reduce inflammation in the gut. They are found in fermented foods, such as yogurt, kefir (fermented milk drink), sauerkraut, kimchi (fermented vegetables) and kombucha (fermented tea). Note that if fermented foods are processed (heat-treated) after fermentation, they will not contain live cultures of probiotics.
Don’t start taking probiotic supplements without speaking with your health care provider or gastroenterologist first. The most common probiotics found in dietary supplements and foods include Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and the yeast Saccharomyces boulardii. There are many different species and strains, and not all will have the same benefit. Start with food first and try combining prebiotics with probiotics (called synbiotics). Try the recipe below to merge the prebiotics, onions and garlic, with the probiotic, yogurt.
French Onion Dip with Greek Yogurt (Printable PDF)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 medium onions, peeled and diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups plain nonfat Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ Tablespoon chopped chives, if desired
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add onions and sauté, stirring occasionally, until caramelized and golden brown, about 20-25 minutes. Add the garlic at the last minute of cooking. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Meanwhile in a medium bowl, combine yogurt, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Stir in the cooled onion and garlic mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Before serving, stir and top with chives. Refrigerate leftovers and use with 2-3 days.
Yield: 12 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving): 40 calories, 1.5 grams fat, 65 milligrams sodium, 3 grams carbohydrate, 0 grams fiber, 4 grams protein
Sources: Prebiotics and Probiotics: Creating a Healthier You, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Sarah Klemm, RDN
Probiotics: Where do we Stand?, Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Wendy Marcason, RD
This blog post first appeared in the Pantagraph on April 28, 2021.