You’re sharing your body with trillions of bacteria that have benefits for everything from immunity to digestion. They could even play a role in your mood. And to keep them alive and well, you need to supply them with prebiotics, or prebiotic foods.
It’s true that not all of the bacteria in your gut are helpful, but many of them are. The good ones that promote health are called probiotics. Keep reading to find out how to treat them right.
What Are Prebiotics?
Put simply, prebiotics feed probiotics. They are carbohydrates your body cannot digest that move through your digestive system intact, acting as a source of food for healthy gut bacteria. These healthy probiotics go on to grow and potentially offer a number of health benefits.
First on the list is gut health.
If you’re wondering where to get prebiotics, here is a tip: fiber. Fiber is indigestible and feeds gut bacteria. If a food is a good source of fiber, it doubles as a prebiotic.
Prebiotics contribute to a healthy digestive system by feeding, energizing, growing, and taking care of healthful gut bacteria.
13 Prebiotic Foods
Virtually any whole grain, fruit, or vegetable acts a prebiotic. Here are 13 prebiotic foods that pack a nice punch of non-digestible carbs to fuel a healthy gut.
1. Dandelion Greens
That stubborn weed that ruins beautiful lawns everywhere is actually very nutritious, especially its greens. A dandelion green salad can supply a big boost to your bacterial population. A 100-gram serving can offer four grams of fiber for your gut bacteria to feast on.
The greens contain a special type of fiber called “inulin.”Inulin fiber can help with digestion, relieve constipation, and promote immune health.
Other potential benefits of dandelion greens include cholesterol-lowering and anti-inflammatory capabilities.
Garlic is a popular herb that features in countless recipes. As good as it may be for your taste buds, it may do even more for your microbiome.
Garlic is a good source of inulin as well as a naturally occurring sugar called fructooligosaccharide (FOS), which also acts as a prebiotic.
FOS may also help with fat breakdown, nitric oxide production, and immune strength.
In addition to promoting better digestive health, garlic can also have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial effects.
Apples are another great prebiotic. They feature a fiber called pectin, a short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) that helps feed healthful bacteria and decrease populations of harmful bacteria.
Aside from being a great source of fiber, apples are also a rich source of antioxidants. Polyphenols and quercetin are found in apples, and both are linked to a numerous benefits.
Apples may help improve digestion and cholesterol levels and fight inflammation.
4. Chicory Root
Chicory root may not be a pantry staple, but this member of the dandelion family is a dense source of prebiotics. It can be used to brew “chicory root coffee,” because of its coffee-like flavor.
Its prebiotic power comes from inulin. In fact, inulin may make up nearly half of chicory root’s fiber content.
Prebiotics can serve as another excuse to eat chocolate. Of course, the benefits are lost if you’re using milk chocolate or other sugar-laden, processed versions that can actually promote the growth of unhealthy gut bacteria.
To get the gut-friendly benefits of cocoa, you’ll want to get it as close to pure as possible. It’s also a great source of antioxidants that can offer a series of benefits including lower blood pressure.
Oats are a healthy grain that can offer a host of benefits, including being a great source of prebiotics.
Oats are a rich source of both insoluble and soluble fiber, and they contain a large amount of a heart-healthy soluble fiber called beta-glucan.
Oats are associated with better digestive health, lower “bad” LDL cholesterol levels, improved blood sugar control, improved insulin response, and more.
This spring vegetable is another great source of inulin that can promote a healthy gut.
A small 3.5-ounce serving of asparagus can supply up to three grams of inulin fiber.
There is no recommended daily intake of inulin, but a person should eat between 25 and 35 grams of total fiber per day.
This popular fruit serves as a great source of magnesium, potassium, and more. Bananas can also offer a nice serving or prebiotics.
Green bananas are particularly high in resistant starch, which ferments in your body to have prebiotic effects.
Bananas may help reduce bloating and boost healthy gut bacteria.
Onions are another dietary staple that can contribute to a number of health benefits, including feeding your healthy gut bacteria.
Like garlic, onions feature FOS to feed healthy bacteria.
Onions can be added to countless recipes to boost nutrition as well as prebiotic and antioxidant intake.
10. Jerusalem Artichoke
Jerusalem artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus) are not the same as traditional globe artichokes (Cynara scolymus). In fact, these vegetables are starch tubers that look a lot like gingerroot.
Regardless of their title, these veggies can boost healthy bacteria in your colon with the best of them.
Jerusalem artichoke is a nutrient-dense starch vegetable that can serve as an alternative to potatoes.
Tomatoes are another good source of FOS and inulin that can promote gut health.
Lycopene, the carotenoid responsible for providing a tomato’s deep red color, may be very beneficial to heart health.
12. Yacon Root
Yacon root is similar to the sweet potato and can serve as a suitable substitute. It is rich in fiber, inulin, and FOS.
Yacon root is a naturally sweet with a low glycemic load. While it looks very similar to the sweet potato, it features more water and prebiotic capacity.
13. Leafy Green Vegetables
Plain-old, simple leafy green vegetables, from spinach to broccoli, serve as great sources of prebiotics. They are widely accessible and versatile, and come packed full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can aid your health in several ways.
Leafy green consumption is associated with improved heart health, lower cholesterol, lower inflammation, and better digestive health. They are a dense source of fiber, too.
Prebiotic Foods Are Everywhere!
If there’s fiber in it, it can have prebiotic effects. It’s really that simple. Fiber is essentially a blanket term for indigestible carbohydrates, which means berries, whole-grain bread, and virtually all other plant-based foods that feature gut-healthy prebiotics.
I know you’ve heard it before, but when it comes to eating for better health, you just can’t go wrong with whole fruits, vegetables, and grains.
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