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FD Healthy: Prebiotics & Probiotics

By: FD Chef Lauren "Ratatouille" Wood

Prebiotics and Probiotics: What’s the difference, why do we need them and where to find them . . .

Our bodies contain more beneficial bacteria, also known as probiotics, than cells. These microorganisms are essential for life, and maintaining a healthy level of gut bacteria promotes good overall health, potentially protecting against oral, digestive, and auto-immune problems.

In order to promote the growth of these probiotic bacteria, it is beneficial to consume a diet that is high in prebiotic foods. For those undergoing cancer treatments, certain cancer drugs and radiation treatments may reduce the number of beneficial bacteria in our gut. Consciously incorporating foods containing healthy bacteria is one practice that can be paired with cancer treatments.

Where to find them?

Probiotics are found in many fermented foods. When purchasing foods containing probiotics, it is important to make sure that you select live or active cultures. You can usually find this information on product packaging. The following foods are high in probiotics:

  • Yogurt
  • Kimchi
  • Tofu (Fresh)
  • Miso
  • Kefir
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kombucha
  • Aged Cheeses

Although you can purchase probiotic supplements from the store, supplements will only carry certain strains. Maintaining a balanced diet high in a variety of bacteria rich foods is a great way to ensure that you build a diverse, stable array of gut flora. A helpful course of action is to include these probiotic and prebiotic foods into the diet as often as possible. Prebiotics are indigestible food items, that feed the probiotics. Some great prebiotic foods are:

  • Bananas
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Leeks
  • Asparagus
  • Artichokes
  • Soybeans
  • Whole Grains

How to incorporate them into your diet?

Incorporating probiotic and prebiotic foods into your diet can be simple and flavorful. Here is a recipe that is simple and has both. Quinoa is a whole grain prebiotic while kimchi is a fermented probiotic and soy sauce is in both categories.

Kimchi Quinoa Sushi

Recipe by: Clara “Kinja” Darling

Yield: 2 servings


1/3 cup quinoa, dry

2/3 cup water

As needed, salt

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

½ cup Kimchi, live cultures

¼ small jicama, matchstick cut

1 carrot, matchstick cut

½ small cucumber, matchstick cut

2 sheets nori seaweed

As needed, white sesame seeds, toasted

Soy sauce, for dipping

Method of Preparation:

  1. Bring water to a boil, add quinoa, season with salt, and cook, covered for 15-20 minutes, until water has absorbed and quinoa soft but still has a bite.
  2. Add vinegar to cooked quinoa and fluff. Keep warm.
  3. On a sushi mat covered with plastic, lay out a piece of nori. Top nori with ½ cup quinoa.
  4. Sprinkle rice with toasted sesame seeds. In the center place a layer of kimchi, carrot, cucumber, and jicama, lengthwise.
  5. Roll the sushi, tightly.
  6. Cut into 8 pieces. Serve.

Chef’s note: Be sure to check the package when buying kimchi to ensure it contains live cultures.

You can find more information on Prebiotics and Probiotics in this peer-reviewed scientific journal, the Journal of Probiotics and Health.

For more information on ways to prepare fermented foods with probiotic and prebiotic benefits check out Cultures for Health.

To order a copy of our very own Out Cooking It with First Descents cookbook, explore our FD Store.

Please note that First Descents does not conduct nutritional research studies, nor does FD encourage readers to ensue any dramatic dietary or nutritional shifts without first consulting a doctor or certified nutritionist.


Ratatouille started my journey with First Descents as an intern sous chef in 201. I was just graduating from college at Johnson and Wales University with a Bachelor in Culinary Nutrition. Currently I am pursuing my credentials to be a registered dietitian. I am in the process of completing all my requirements and will sit for the exam in the summer of 2018. This will help me better provide education for participants next season when I come back as a program chef and seasons beyond. Cancer hits close to home as I lost my grandmother in May 2017. She struggled with her diet and I vowed to help as many as I can nutritionally that also have cancer.

1 thought on “FD Healthy: Prebiotics & Probiotics”

  1. Hi,
    First, I want to thank you for sharing your knowledge and the lists of foods with probiotics and prebiotics.
    Second, I was wondering if pickles are a probiotic food?

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