We recently asked Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, LD, CLEC, CPT, a registered dietitian based in Charleston, about the type of probiotic-rich yogurt she swears by. However, to get the most gut-boosting benefits from eating a cup of this fermented dairy product, Manaker adds that you should always pair your yogurt with a banana. But not just any banana—having a slightly *under ripe* one with your yogurt is actually the best option for your microbiome. But why?
- Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, LD, registered dietitian and prenatal and postnatal health expert
Manaker says the method to the madness is simple: The probiotics found in yogurt perform their gut-boosting benefits much better with a little helping hand from the prebiotic fiber found in under ripe bananas. "Basically, it’s a match made in gut health heaven," she says. And although we’ve likely been eating this simple combination for years—and unknowingly giving our gut microbiome the love it deserves—Manaker explains why the combination is actually much more powerful than you might expect. Plus, according to her, bananas aren’t yogurt’s only potential suitor. There are plenty of other foods filled with prebiotic fiber that you can pair with probiotic-rich yogurt to maximize its gut benefits, too.
What makes yogurt and a slightly under ripe banana the perfect gut-friendly duo
Manaker says that she always encourages her clients to eat a source of prebiotic fiber while consuming probiotic-rich foods such as yogurt because prebiotics essentially "feed" probiotics. “Just like all living things, probiotics need to be supplied with appropriate fuel in order to thrive and do what they need to do,” Manaker says.
This is where prebiotic fibers—and our slightly green bananas—come into play. “Prebiotic fibers are indigestible fibers, which allow them to travel through the digestive system to the bacteria that reside in our gut,” Manaker says. And although probiotics usually get all of the praise, doctors say that prebiotics might actually do even more for the gut than the other. According to Manaker, as prebiotics make their way through the gut, they selectively support beneficial bacteria (probiotics) while helping stave off the bacteria that may be potentially harmful—this is, as she refers to it, “a one-two punch” when it comes to balancing your gut microbiome.
Other foods that contain prebiotic fibers to pair with yogurt
Although this soulmate-style food pairing might feel like an episode from The Bachelorette, it turns out that bananas aren’t the only potentially “perfect” match to pair with probiotics—though the fruit does have about two grams of fiber per banana. Other solid contenders that Manaker recommends include prebiotic-rich foods like garlic, sunchokes, apples, asparagus, kiwis, and walnuts.
And, if you were wondering why not just any banana will do, Manaker says that “once the peel of a banana is no longer slightly green, the composition of the fruit changes slightly.” That's because as it ripens, the structure of the carbohydrates (the prebiotic fiber) breaks down and converts into sugar. This subtle difference reduces the prebiotic fiber benefits you'll reap from a banana.
And, as a friendly reminder, Manaker says that you should always avoid overheating probiotic-rich foods if you want to reap the most gut health benefits, which can kill the healthy, live bacteria in these foods. “Many strains of live probiotics will not thrive beyond 100°F. So, if you are adding miso paste to your soup or including yogurt in a sauce, once you heat your dish beyond that temperature, you may not reap the benefits of the live bacteria once consumed,” she explains.
TL; DR? Time to stock up on both prebiotic and probiotic foods, which Manaker recommends consuming together every day (together, of course) for maximum gut health benefits—whether at breakfast time or not. Find a few delicious duos below:
- Salads tossed with sauerkraut and asparagus
- Smoothies that combine kefir or greek yogurt with bananas and/or kiwis
- Tempeh-topped grain bowl with roasted asparagus or Jerusalem artichokes
- Kimchi and garlic atop rice or fried eggs
- Greek yogurt parfait with sliced apples
- Panini stuffed with sunchokes and pickled veggies
- Miso soup served with garlic sauteed spinach
This protein banana bread would pair perfectly with a side of, say, yogurt:
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