In Europe and Japan, the market for probiotics is well-developed, but in the U.S., only recently have people become aware of the health benefits of living organisms in the foods they eat.
Why the interest? Studies indicate that consuming probiotics may help strengthen immune function and may exert both anti-tumor and anti-microbial activities. Research is still inconclusive, but is has been promising.
The most common sources of probiotics aredairy foods such as culture-containing milk like kefir, yogurt and cottage cheese.
While probiotics are about ensuring the GI tract is filled with healthy bacteria, the concept of prebiotics focuses on providing food for the good bacteria and promoting their growth and beneficial activities.
So, what do good bacteria like to eat? They tend to like carbohydrates that resist digestion in the upper GI tract like legumes, cereal, potatoes, fruit, berries and whole wheat. They’re clearly vegetarian.
Most important, I like my clients to become savvy distinguishing between prebiotic substances and foods that contains them. Media references to almonds and honey as a prebiotic are not really accurate. No plant or food can be a prebiotic. Wheat, honey and many other foods contain prebiotics; referring to a food as a prebiotic is no more accurate than calling a food a vitamin.
As for the future of pro- and prebiotics, it looks promising, especially as consumers begin to adopt a wellness and preventive state of mind.