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News Archive - Progress Newsletter Spring 2002 Online

Prebiotics and Probiotics: What Are They and Why Should I Eat Them?

By Suzanne Dixon, M.P.H., M.S., R.D.
U-M Cancer Center Nutrition Specialist

Among the hottest new topics in food and nutrition research are prebiotics and probiotics. You can buy probiotics as supplements and some foods are now fortified with them. Recently, pre-biotics has become the new buzzword in the discussion. What are pre- and probiotics?

Follow these tips for including pre- and probiotics in your diet on a regular basis:

1. For probiotics, include a dollop of yogurt in your morning cereal. If your cereal is oatmeal or whole grain, you’ll get the prebiotics too!

2. Purchase the new yogurts in a tube. Pop them in the freezer for a tasty frozen dessert. Research shows that these probiotic bacteria can survive the freezing process, so freezing your yogurt won’t diminish its health benefits.

3. Try adding tempeh to a stir-fry, soup or stew. Tempeh is fermented soy (tofu) and the fermenting process gives the soy a smoky flavor and a meatier texture. Many people who do not like other soy products do enjoy tempeh.

4. Try instant oatmeal as a snack. Just add a little water and pop it in the microwave. It’s quick, easy and tasty. Plus, the soluble fiber in oatmeal will fill you up and keep you from snacking on less healthy foods.

5. Next time you’re in the grocery store, purchase some greens other than your usual salad greens. If you don’t like the stronger taste of greens such as collard greens, chard, kale, mustard greens and dandelion greens, just mix a few of these leafy greens in with your regular salad. You won’t notice the taste as much, but you will get the benefit of including these healthy foods.

6. Try making fruit smoothies to get both prebiotic and probiotic foods. In your blender, add 1/2 cup each of frozen blueberries, frozen strawberries and plain non-fat yogurt. Add 1/2 of a banana. Add enough milk or soy milk to make the fruit and yogurt blend into a drinkable smoothie. If you rinse the blender container right away, cleanup is a breeze.

7. Try whole grain pasta and bean soup together for a quick, healthy prebiotic meal.

8. To add more whole grains into your diet try grain salads, such as barley salad (recipe below), for a change of pace.

Remember, include some of the prebiotic and probiotic foods in your diet on a regular basis for good health, and you’ll feel great.

For good digestive health – and for good health in general – your body needs to have a strong, healthy population of “good” bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract (gut). These good bacteria or “bugs” do more than just help with digestion. Research now shows that these friendly bacteria appear to enhance immunity, help regulate hormone balance, protect us from food-borne illness (food poisoning), protect us from developing allergies, and perform many other important functions.

Many things can upset the balance of good bacteria in our bodies. Medications, stress and poor diet are among the factors that will decrease the population of good bacteria in our bodies. Fortunately, we can give these friendly bacteria help by including certain foods in our diet.

PREbiotics are the foods that contain nutrients that actually nourish these healthy bacteria. In other words, prebiotics are the foods and nutrients that these healthy bacteria like to eat.

PRObiotics are the actual bacteria. Some foods contain these healthy bacteria. When we eat these foods, it can help replace the bacteria that have been destroyed by such things as medications and poor diet. Eating a combination of prebiotic and probiotic foods is important. By eating prebiotic foods, we can nourish the good bacteria that we already have. By eating probiotic foods, we can replace the ones that we’ve lost!

Now you know that prebiotics and probiotics are important for good health. You also know what foods contain prebiotics and probiotics. But, how do you get them into your diet?

PRObiotic Foods

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Tempeh
  • Miso
  • Kim Chi
  • Sauerkraut
  • Other ‘fermented’ foods

PREbiotic foods

  • Oatmeal
  • Flax
  • Barley
  • Other whole grains
  • Greens (especially dandelion greens, but also spinach, collard greens, chard, kale, mustard greens, etc.)
  • Berries and other fruit
  • Legumes (lentils, kidney beans, chickpeas, navy beans, white beans, black beans, etc


Barley Harvest Salad (8 Servings)

2 cups cooked barley
2 cups frozen whole kernel corn, thawed
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions (2 to 3 medium)
1 medium unpeeled apple, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 small carrot, coarsely shredded (about 1/3 cup)
2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Mix all ingredients except oil, honey, and lemon juice in a large bowl. Shake oil, honey, and lemon juice in a tightly covered container. Pour over barley mixture and toss.

Nutrtion Infomation:
1 Serving:
Calories 150
Calories from fat 35
Fat, g 4
Saturated, g 1


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This article is part of the Cancer Center's News Archive, and is listed here for historical purposes.

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