TAG | growth
By now many of you have heard about the remarkable health benefits of probiotics. In fact, the good-for-you bacteria seem to be making headlines everywhere these days—especially as we head into another cold and flu season. And as awareness increases about just how good probiotics are for optimal digestion and immunity, there’s another “p” word you might be wondering about: prebiotics.
In technical terms, prebiotics are often defined as “non-digestible food ingredients” that promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the digestive tract. So what does that mean? Quite simply, prebiotics are a food source for probiotics. So as they travel through the digestive system, they nourish all those good bacteria along the way and help them grow and multiply. The result? More good bacteria in the gut, which means better digestion and a stronger natural defense system.
So where do prebiotics come from? Well, mostly from soluble fiber sources such as oats, legumes, flax and almonds—and that’s where the “non-digestible” part comes into play. Dietary fiber—including both soluble fiber and insoluble fiber—really just refers to the parts of plant foods that our bodies are unable to digest and absorb, which is why it’s sometimes called “roughage”. Because prebiotics are not digested, they remain in the digestive tract where they can do their job of feeding their probiotic partners.
In addition to obtaining prebiotics through the diet, nowadays many probiotic supplements will actually include prebiotics to help you get the benefit of this dynamic duo (i.e. probiotics and prebiotics). For example, you may see something called FOS on the label. Short for fructooligosaccharide, FOS is extracted from soluble fiber foods such as chicory root and will help to feed and stimulate the growth of beneficial probiotic bacteria such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli.
So there you have it! Two powerful “p” words that can go a long way toward better digestion and a stronger natural immune system—talk about a winning combination!
Prebiotic Food Sources:
- Chicory Root
- Whole Grains
Americans love sugar. According to the USDA, each of us consumes more than 150 pounds of added sugar every year (or about 50 teaspoons daily), making the United States the largest consumer of sweeteners worldwide.
So where does most of this sugary goodness come from? Mainly from heavily processed snack foods, baked goods and soft drinks all loaded with high-fructose corn syrup. HFCS is a highly refined sweetener made from corn starch, and one that is widely used by food manufacturers because it is inexpensive to produce and transport.
The problem, experts say, comes with the health risks associated with HFCS and how it works in the body. Put simply, it affects healthy blood sugar levels and insulin regulation, which helps to explain why a diet high in HFCS has been linked to increased risk of obesity and obesity-related disease. And now scientists have found another reason to caution Americans against the common sweetener.
A recent study found that pancreatic cancer cells use fructose to multiply in the body, which supports previous studies that have linked a high-HFCS diet with higher rates of pancreatic cancer. It has to do with how fructose and glucose—the two main components of HFCS—are metabolized in the body, and scientists found that cancer cells had an easier time metabolizing fructose in order to thrive.
More research is planned to help scientists better understand the relationship between sugar metabolism and increased cancer risk, but experts hope that studies like this one will increase awareness about the dangers of eating too much sugar.