What is Prebiotics?
Prebiotics are a type of dietary fiber that are indigestible by humans but serve as food for beneficial bacteria in the gut; probiotics. Thus, prebiotics are crucial for the survival of those beneficial microorganisms in our gut to carry out our bodily functions for the general well-being of our body.
Why Prebiotics are important?
Consumption of adequate prebiotics is important for our bodies because they play an important role in the following functions;
Improved Digestive Health: Prebiotics promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, which can improve digestion, increase nutrient absorption, and reduce the risk of digestive problems such as constipation, diarrhea, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Enhanced Immune System: The beneficial bacteria in our gut play an important role in regulating the immune system. By promoting the growth of these bacteria, prebiotics can help boost immune function and reduce the risk of infections and other immune-related disorders.
Reduced Inflammation: Prebiotics have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce inflammation in the gut and throughout the body. This can lead to a reduced risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Improved Mental Health: There is a growing body of research linking gut health to mental health. By promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, prebiotics may help improve mood, reduce stress, and even alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Better Bone Health: Some studies have suggested that prebiotics may help improve bone health by increasing calcium absorption and reducing the risk of osteoporosis.
So, what should we have to include in the diet to get an adequate amount of prebiotics?
Well, it is really important for us to have well-informed knowledge about which food is rich in prebiotics. I am Dr. Tun Min practicing as a GP in NHS UK. According to my experience, people have considerable knowledge about the importance of probiotics but they know less about prebiotics. That’s the reason that I want to elaborate on foods that are rich in prebiotics. Please follow through with my article and you will finally understand what to consume to get sufficient prebiotics.
They contain several types of fibers that resist digestion and absorption by our stomach and small intestine and reach the colon where they are fermented by beneficial bacteria. The vegetables rich in probiotic fibers are as follows;
Artichokes: Artichokes are a particularly rich source of inulin, a prebiotic fiber that has been shown to improve gut health and enhance the immune system.
Asparagus: Asparagus contains fructooligosaccharides (FOS), a type of prebiotic fiber that has been shown to increase the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
Garlic and onions: Garlic and onions contain fructans, a type of prebiotic fiber that can help improve gut health and reduce the risk of certain diseases like atherosclerosis and heart disease.
Leeks: Leeks contain a high amount of inulin, a prebiotic fiber that has been shown to help regulate digestion and improve overall gut health.
Chicory root: Chicory root is a particularly rich source of inulin, and is often used as an ingredient in prebiotic supplements.
Whole Grains, Seeds, and Nuts
Whole grains, seeds, and nuts serve as prebiotics because they contain various types of dietary fibers such as soluble fibers, insoluble fibers, and resistant starch that resist digestion in the small intestine allowing them to undergo fermentation in the colon and serving as food for probiotics.
Some grains, seeds, and nuts according to their fiber content and functions
|Insoluble fibers||Insoluble fibres||Resistant Starch|
|Whole Grains||OatsBarley||Wheat branBrown rice Whole wheat||QuinoaBuckwheat|
|Seeds and Nuts||FlaxseedsPistachiosChia seedsWalnuts||AlmondFlaxseedsPistachiosWalnuts|
|How they work||dissolve in water to form a gel-like substance in the gut. This gel can help regulate digestion, lower cholesterol levels, and promote the growth of beneficial bacteria||not broken down by digestive enzymes and pass through the digestive tract mostly intact. can help improve bowel regularity and promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut||resists digestion in the small intestine and reaches the colon intact. |
can help promote the growth of beneficial bacteria and improve gut health
Fruits also serve as prebiotics in a similar manner as grains and vegetables. Some prebiotic-rich fruits are;
Bananas: Bananas are a particularly good source of inulin, a type of soluble fiber that promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
Apples: Apples contain pectin, a type of soluble fiber that can help regulate digestion and promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
Berries: Berries are a good source of polyphenols, which are antioxidants that can help reduce inflammation and promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
Kiwi: Kiwi is a particularly rich source of both soluble and insoluble fibers, which can help improve gut health and promote the growth of beneficial bacteria.
Oranges: Oranges contain soluble fiber in the form of pectin, which can help improve digestion and promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
Both Prebiotic and Probiotic
Dairy products are not typically considered a significant source of prebiotics. However, certain dairy products such as yogurt and kefir contain live cultures of probiotic bacteria that can help support the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
However, such fermented dairy products also contain lactose, which is a type of sugar that can serve as a food source for beneficial bacteria in the gut. While lactose is not technically prebiotic, it can still provide some nourishment for beneficial bacteria in the gut.
Chose for Live Cultures
It’s worth noting that not all dairy products contain live cultures of probiotic bacteria, so it’s important to read labels carefully and choose products that specifically advertise their probiotic content.
Less well-known sources of Prebiotics
While many people are familiar with some of the most common sources of prebiotics, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, there are several less well-known sources of prebiotics that can also be beneficial for gut health. Some of them are;
Seaweed: Seaweed is a type of marine algae that is high in various types of prebiotic fibers, including alginate and fucoidan, which can help promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
Dandelion greens: Dandelion greens are a leafy green vegetable that is high in fructooligosaccharides (FOS), which are a type of prebiotic fiber that can help improve gut health and support the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
Jicama: Jicama is a crunchy root vegetable that is high in inulin, a type of prebiotic fiber that can help promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
Points to Consider while Choosing Prebiotic-Rich Food
Look for a variety of prebiotic-rich foods
Different prebiotics feed different types of beneficial gut bacteria, so it’s important to consume a variety of prebiotic-rich foods to support a diverse range of beneficial gut bacteria.
Choose whole foods
Whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds are typically the best sources of prebiotics, as they contain a variety of other nutrients and compounds that can support overall health.
Pay attention to fiber content
Prebiotics are a type of fiber, so it’s important to choose foods that are high in fiber. Look for foods that have at least 3 grams of fiber per serving.
Consider the glycemic index
The glycemic index is a measure of how quickly a food raises blood sugar levels. Foods that have a low glycemic index are generally better for gut health, as they can help support the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. Look for foods that have a glycemic index of 55 or lower.
Be mindful of other dietary restrictions
Some prebiotic-rich foods may not be suitable for individuals with certain dietary restrictions, such as gluten intolerance, lactose intolerance, or nut allergies. If you have any dietary restrictions, be sure to choose prebiotic-rich foods that are safe for you to consume.
Prebiotics are an important type of dietary fiber that can help support the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, leading to improved gut health and overall well-being. By incorporating prebiotic-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds into your diet, you can help promote a healthy and diverse gut microbiome. Remember to choose a variety of prebiotic-rich foods as in aforementioned correct approach. By making small changes to your diet, you can take important steps towards improving your gut health and overall health.