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9 Foods that are Good for Your Gut

What to Eat for a Healthy Digestive System
  -- By Megan Patrick, Staff Writer
Your digestive tract is full of living organisms that help keep you healthy--around 400 different types of beneficial bacteria and yeast strains that co-habitate in your gastrointestinal system. There are several different kinds of foods and supplements that contain these beneficial bugs (probiotics) or help keep your gut flora functioning optimally (prebiotics).

Probiotics: Beneficial Bugs
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria or yeast strains that provide health benefits by crowding out harmful bacteria, boosting your intestinal health, and strengthening your immune system. Found in fermented foods and in supplement form, here's how to incorporate these health-promoting bugs into your diet: Prebiotics: Food for Your Flora
Prebiotics are the "food" for the good bacteria that help them grow more strongly. A good prebiotic food substance: While some prebiotics are found in familiar types of fiber; others are less common. However all types of prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients that stimulate the growth of good bacteria.  

The scientific names that are often used to identify prebiotics (and that you might see on some food labels) include: Different combinations of these prebiotics occur naturally in many plant-based foods such as: It would take a large quantity of the above foods to exert a useful prebiotic effect in their natural state. Therefore, within today's food environment, a more realistic method involves fortifying popular foods with defined amounts of prebiotics. Inulin (a type of FOS) found in chicory root (the best natural source) has been found to be a very beneficial prebiotic. It is extracted from chicory root and added to foods and beverages, such as yogurts, cereals, breads, nutrition bars, ice-creams and frozen desserts, spreads, drinks and fortified water. 
 
Although benefits associated with prebiotics and probiotics are favorable, researchers are cautious about drawing firm conclusions because benefits vary, depending on type and amount of probiotic and prebiotic consumed. More human studies need to be done to provide a better understanding of their direct effect on health. For now, consuming foods that add good bacteria to your body (with probiotics) and keeping those bacteria happy once they're there (with prebiotics) is a great way to obtain the health benefit.

This article has been reviewed and approved by Becky Hand, M.Ed., Licensed and Registered Dietitian. 
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