What are Prebiotics and why you should care
Many of us are familiar with probiotics and know these friendly bacteria are good for our gut health. But, what about keeping these ‘good bugs’ thriving? That’s where prebiotics come into play. In this article we take a closer look at what prebiotics are, their benefits and what foods to include in your diet so you get enough of them.
What are Prebiotics?
Simply put, prebiotics are indigestible fibres that feed the good bacteria in your gut. They are found in fibre-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. However, prebiotics are a specific type of indigestible fibre that bypass your small intestine and heads to your colon where they are fermented by the bacteria in your gut. It is here they can be metabolized by the probiotics as fuel.
The Power of Prebiotics and Probiotics
The powerful combination of prebiotics and probiotics promotes optimal body function. Probiotics play an important role in many areas including helping to break down food, absorb nutrients, regulate blood sugar control and support digestive efficiency, immune function and brain function. Prebiotics play the important role of fuelling probiotics, so they can thrive and do these jobs efficiently.
Benefits of Prebiotics
Prebiotics support probiotics which supports your health in numerous ways. Dr. Amy Meyers, a functional medicine specialist explains it well, “Your gut affects every part of your body, from your digestion to your immune system, your skin, your brain, your hormones, and your adrenals. Since your gut is the gateway to health, a healthy gut leads to a healthier body overall.”
Some of the following health benefits a healthy colony of bacteria in the gut can support are:
- An efficient and well-functioning digestion system
- Strong immune function
- The body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients such as calcium, in turn supporting bone health
- The ‘good’ bacteria are there to fight the growth of any ‘bad’ bacteria, reducing the risk of infections
- Increase the production of short chain fatty acids, which fight bad bacteria and increase production of immune-boosting white blood cells
- Activate production of Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue (GALT), a component of the gut wall that protects the digestive tract from bacteria that can be on the food we consume
- Fuels the good bacteria which powers the colon, a major health organ
- Supports the body in processing carbohydrates, which in turn supports digestion and metabolism, resulting in natural and healthy weight control
- Aids in production of the hormones that control appetite and anxiety
- Assists in balancing your hormones, boosting your mood, and relieving stress
- Can help relieve allergy and inflammatory response
Prebiotic Rich Foods
Eating a well-balanced diet, rich in fruits and vegetables is the best way to naturally provide your body with prebiotics. It’s important to be aware that not all foods containing fibre are prebiotic. The following list of foods contain high levels of prebiotic fibre. Eat these in moderation and as a general rule consume them raw or lightly cooked to retain their benefits.
Vegetables and Fruits
- Chicory root
- Dandelion greens
- Jerusalem artichoke
- Garlic, onions (try marinated red onions) and leeks
- Konjac root, burdock root, yacon, jacama and radishes are particularly high
- Cruciferous vegetables like kale, broccoli, cabbage and roots. These vegetables are much easier on your digestive system when cooked
- Bananas and apples
- Seaweed and ocean vegetables are also a great source of iodine
Grains, Seeds and Legumes
- Barley and oats
- Cocoa or Cacao Powder, also rich in antioxidants
- Flaxseeds, chia seeds and hemp seeds
- Wheat Bran
- Coconut and Coconut Flour
- Legumes such as lentils and beans
It’s remarkable how feeding the ‘good bugs’ in your gut can have such a positive impact on your health. Keep in mind that little changes can make a big difference in your health. So start by choosing one prebiotic rich food to add to your diet this week. Which one will you choose?