At some point, we have all heard our doctors, nurses, or nutritionists talk about the significance of probiotics. But little is said about prebiotics, though our bodies require prebiotics as much as, if not more than, probiotics. In layman’s terms, prebiotics are the food probiotics feed on.
Both of these support the body in creating and maintaining microorganisms (which includes healthy bacteria) which aid and support the gut with digestion. To ensure that you take in enough prebiotics, it is important to identify the top prebiotic foods.
We take a look at what prebiotics are, what health advantages they have in store for you, and which foods you need to eat to ensure you get more than enough prebiotics in your diet.
What Are Prebiotics?
A prebiotic is a type of fiber that comes from the non-digestible part of certain foods like apple skins, bananas, cabbage or beans. It travels through the small intestine and becomes fermented once it reaches the colon.
Prebiotics act as fuel for probiotics and assist in the nourishment and growth thereof. They also act as a mild laxative and help bowel movements.
Prebiotics together with probiotics create a healthy microbiome – in other words, a collection of microorganisms, which assist our bodies in the defense against toxins that enter our bodies.
What Are the Advantages of Prebiotics?
At this point in time, there isn’t enough research on the pros and cons of prebiotics. Their existence is a fairly new discovery. The focus for many years has been probiotics alone, while prebiotics have been put on the backburner.
From the existing research, scientists have deduced that prebiotics holds several advantages for the human body especially in relation to the digestive system.
Researchers say that prebiotics:
- Assist and Feed Probiotics
- Increase Immunity
- Increase Bone Density
- Assist the Digestive System and Regulate Bowel Movements
- Improve Mineral Absorption into the Body
- Protect Against Intestinal Infections and Inflammation
- Decrease the Risk of Getting Allergies
It Sounds Good, but Are There Any Disadvantages?
At this point in time, as stated above, there is much more research on probiotics than on prebiotics. There is no conclusive evidence yet about prebiotics having any side effects or disadvantages to your health. However, if you decide to take prebiotic supplements and you have a chronic illness, you should speak to your general practitioner first.
Which Are the Top Prebiotic Foods
It is clear that prebiotics do more than just assist our digestion. Our bodies need them, and it’s important to ensure that you take in enough prebiotics every day.
It isn’t difficult to focus your diet on foods that are high in prebiotics, as there is quite a range of prebiotic-rich foods. We will focus on some of the most widely available foods to ensure that you know which are the top prebiotic foods to pick next time you visit the supermarket.
1. Onions, Leeks, and Spring Onions
The onion family is naturally rich in antioxidants and cleans your gut since it is rich in inulin, which also assists in the growth of good bacteria. Leeks are also excellent for your heart and bones due to their high vitamin K content.
2. Chicory Root
Almost 50% of the fiber in chicory root is rich in inulin. It also has antioxidant properties and it promotes the production of bile, which assists in the breakdown of foods and fats.
Bananas are a great source of vitamins and minerals, as well as good bacteria and dietary fiber.
4. Beans, Soy Beans, and Kidney Beans
Legumes such as beans are extremely high in fiber. They are an excellent source of prebiotics due to their gut bacteria feeding properties.
Garlic aids metabolism and is a natural source of vitamin B6. It is furthermore rich in inulin and has antibacterial properties as well.
Cabbage is jam-packed full of vitamins, minerals, and most importantly, prebiotics.
Flaxseeds contain a great deal of soluble and insoluble fiber, and this is great for the body. They help the body process the dietary fat you consume, so they are an excellent choice for anyone trying to lose weight. In addition to their prebiotic effect, flaxseeds also help regulate blood sugar.
8. Dried Fruits
Dried fruits like dates and figs are also packed with dietary fiber that assists with digestion and promotes good gut health.
9. Bran, Rye Bread, Cous Cous
Bran and other grains contain natural dietary fibers which help clean the gut. Consuming these foods regularly promotes healthy gut bacteria.
High in both prebiotics and anti-oxidants, this vegetable has excellent anti-inflammatory benefits.
Apples are high in pectin which has prebiotic properties. It also has natural anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.
12. Cocoa Beans
Consuming cocoa beans is an excellent way to get your gut bacteria back in order. Additionally, you can reduce your cholesterol and help protect your heart.
A Word on Human Breast Milk
When we talk about foods that are naturally rich in prebiotics, it is no surprise that human breast milk should take the top of the list. Breast milk serves as a perfectly balanced meal for the infant, so it is only natural that it should have its fair share of prebiotics in it.
Although not much research exists around prebiotics, health experts have all come to the conclusion that prebiotics are not only good for your gut health and digestive system – they are a requirement for keeping our intestinal flora healthy and in check. It is therefore important that we make prebiotics a part of our daily diet.
The best way to do this is to find the top prebiotic foods that can make sure our bodies draw the required dietary fibers from those foods. These fibers pass through our intestines and we benefit from the fermentation process they go through. Fermentation helps feed those good bacteria living in our gut, and so they help keep our immune system strong and our bodies healthy.