“Synbiotics” are Good for You

Provided by Angela Franks, Dietetic Intern, University of Texas San Antonio

What comes to mind when you think of bacteria? Get rid of them! Right? We have many weapons: bleach, antimicrobial cleaning products, and anti-microbial personal products, etc.  But, many people are not aware of the fact that there are good bacteria as well as bad bacteria. In fact, the good bacteria can help to fight the bad bacteria! The good bacteria are now in the research spotlight and there are many health benefits that are being discovered. In fact, they are making us healthier! The good bacteria are now known as probiotics. Bad bacteria are commonly called pathogens. Currently, research is showing that probiotics may improve:

  • cholesterol levels
  • immune system
  • blood pressure
  • diabetes
  • obesity
  • coronary heart disease
  • diarrhea caused by antibiotics
  • digestion
  • oral health
  • parasite infections
  • some respiratory and urinary tract infections
  • anxiety, stress and depression
  • detoxification

These little critters can also make vitamins and antioxidants for us! They build “homes” for themselves in our colon and when they are nice and cozy, they produce compounds that are beneficial for our health. Among them are Biotin (a B vitamin), Vitamin K, and certain healthy fats.

Are you already eating foods that have probiotics? Common foods include: sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, kefir, sour cream, buttermilk, cottage cheese, cheese, vinegar, miso, and tempeh. Be sure to read the label for the words “live cultures,” however, because not all of these foods are made with the living cultures. You can also take probiotics in supplement form.

Do you eat food? Of course you do! It turns out that good bacteria need food too in order to survive and thrive. Since probiotics live in our colon, they need to eat food that we are not able to digest. It turns out that there is a component of food that we are not able to digest – FIBER! Some foods have special fibers that probiotics like best – inulin and FOS (fructooligosaccharides). Some of these foods include: tomatoes, artichokes, onions, garlic, leeks, jicama, asparagus, berries, bananas, ground flax seeds, and legumes. Some food manufacturers are fortifying breakfast cereals and other foods with prebiotics.

Consuming probiotics with prebiotics is known as “synbiotics”. You can make your own synbiotic meal and the little microbial friends living in your colon will enjoy it as much as you!

Spicy Synbiotic Stir Fry stir fry photo

Servings: 4
Time: About 30 minutes

Stir Fry Ingredients:
1 pound chicken breasts, cut to ¼ inch thickness
1 cup chopped Bok Choy
½ cup chopped asparagus
½ cup shredded jicama
½ cup diced tomatoes stir fry nutrition
½ cup thinly sliced red onions
½ cup sliced red peppers
2 minced cloves of garlic
1 tbs minced ginger
1 tbs olive oil
1 tbs rice vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp low sodium soy sauce
Optional to add spice: 1-2 tsp crushed chili flakes

Sauce Ingredients:
4 oz fat free plain yogurt (or fat free sour cream) with live cultures
1 tsp chili garlic sauce or siracha (2 tsp if you like the spice!)
1 tsp low sodium soy sauce


  1. Place olive oil in a sauce pan over medium heat.
  2. Add diced chicken, onions and garlic and sauté, until chicken is lightly golden brown.
  3. Add asparagus, jicama, tomatoes, red peppers, and soy sauce and cook until asparagus is slightly tender.
  4. Add bok choy and sesame oil and cook for 2-3 minutes until bok choy stems are slightly tender.
  5. Place yogurt (or sour cream), chili sauce, and soy sauce in a bowl and stir.
  6. Drizzle sauce over your stir-fry when serving.