You’ve likely heard of probiotics, but what about their counterpart: prebiotics? Prebiotics for gut health are an essential part of a healthy diet. Bonus: they are extremely easy to incorporate into your meals!
Probiotics. These are live bacteria found in certain foods or supplements. They can provide numerous health benefits.
Prebiotics. These substances come from types of carbs (mostly fiber) that humans can’t digest. The beneficial bacteria in your gut eat this fiber.
WHAT ARE PREBIOTICS?
Essentially, prebiotics are food for your gut bacteria. They actually feed the good microbes in your gut! Prebiotics are a group of nutrients that are broken down by gut microbiota. Essentially pre-biotics feed the intestinal microbiota. This process also creates short chain fatty acids such as butyrate, acetate, and propionate as a byproduct, that release into blood circulation and as a result, affects not only the gastrointestinal tracts but can help promote regular bowel movements, support a healthy gut lining, and help with the absorption of nutrients. (Here is the study).
The three most common and researched prebiotics in food for gut health are:
While we know prebiotics in food feed the good bacteria in the gut, so you might wonder if it will feed the harmful bacteria? In order for bacteria to break down a prebiotic and use it as food, they must contain certain enzymes. Most harmful microbes don’t have these enzymes, however the beneficial ones do 🔥
Okay, lets chat probiotics
PRObiotics are live microorganisms that live in your gut and encourage a healthy environment. So when you EAT a probiotic rich food, it repopulates the good bacteria in your gut because it contains the actual strains of bacteria. So when you eat a PREbiotic food, its food for the probiotics.
PRObiotics = live good bacteria
PREbiotics = food for the good bacteria
So this might bring you to a question: what are the benefits of prebiotics?
Supports your immune system
For starters the health of your gut directly affects your immune system. About 80% of the immune system is located within the gut microbiome. So by increasing the good gut bacteria by feeding it prebiotics, your're reducing overall stress in the body and strengthening its response to pathogens = Supporting (NOT BOOSTING) your immune system.
Your body communicates in ways you aren’t even aware of 👀
In fact, your brain and your gut talk to each other all the time through hormones and neurotransmitters. This is known as the gut-brain axis.
If you haven't checked out my blog post about leaky brain click here.
Leaky brain is connected to leaky gut meaning that the bacteria in your gut as a direct impact on you brain function and in turn your mood stability. So what does that mean? Remember the short chain fatty acids I was talking about 🆙? Well some of the byproducts of the short chain fatty acids trigger the brain to create serotonin (which is the H🤩PPY hormone). But all that makes sense because 90% of your serotonin is made in the gut 🪃
So if your gut, or I mean second brain is happy....
A deficiency in serotonin causes depression and, in some, anxiety. In fact, the majority of antidepressants work by blocking the brain’s serotonin receptors 🤯
Increased Nutrient Absorption 📈
Calcium and magnesium are super important and by having prebiotic foods in your diet helps to increase absorption 💃
Earlier I talked about the three most common and researched prebiotics in food for gut health are:
Well its Fructooligosaccharides (FOS) that helps calcium and magnesium absorb better within the body.
So this is especially helpful for my ladies going through menopause experiencing bone loss, you want your body to absorb those minerals to help prevent bone loss.
You want to be YOUR regluar in the bathroom and that looks different for everyone. Having prebiotics in your diet helps to promote regular digestion by increasing the good bacteria in the git to fight the harmful bacteria. It's really all about balance here. In a recent study, they found that prebiotics alone increase weekly bowel movement frequency and improve consistency.
The foods with the highest amounts of bioavailable prebiotics 🍌🫐🧄🍎🧅🥦
Chicory root contains high amounts of the prebiotic fiber inulin, which can improve digestion, bowel function, and liver detoxification. I suggest trying sipping on chicory root tea. It has a distinct flavour that works great as a steeped tea.
You might be thinking of a regular artichoke? Nope.
Jerusalem artichoke is also known as the sunroot, sun apple, or earth apple and are starchy tubers like potatoes and turnips. When roasted, the skin becomes flaky and the flesh becomes tender, but the taste of a sunchoke is slightly nutty and sweet. It provides about 2 grams of inulin prebiotic fiber per 100 grams. It’s also rich in potassium and thiamine. Shred jerusalem artichoke onto salads or mix into smoothies.
Onions are rich in prebiotics, antioxidants, and flavonoids, and nutrient dense. They contain inulin and FOS, which as we know strengthens the gut. They’re also rich in the antioxidant flavonoid, Quercetin.
Add onion into your favorite stir-frys or on top of salads or sandwiches, or just about anywhere else.
Garlic is a prebiotic herb with antimicrobial effects. To reap the nutritional benefits, it’s best to eat it raw. Or you can crush or chop it and let it sit. This activates a beneficial enzyme that supports the gut. Mix raw garlic into your favorite veggie dishes, or dressings for the added benefit.
Slightly unripe bananas are a huge source of prebiotics for gut health. They contain prebiotic resistant starch. You can mix them into smoothies or add them to baked goods. They’re also high in fiber, potassium, and other vitamins and minerals 👌
Jicama is a crunchy snack that’s as a cross between a potato and an apple. It’s rich in prebiotic fiber, vitamin C, and amino acids. Raw jicama is a great snack with homemade hummus or guacamole. Or cut them into fries and bake them 😋
Leeks are rich in kaempferol, a beneficial and anti-inflammatory flavonoid. They also contain high inulin content, making them a great prebiotic food source. Leeks are in the same family as onions and garlic and you can add them to almost any dish for extra prebiotics and flavor. Leek and potato soup 🌈
Asparagus contains high amounts of inulin along with other important vitamins and minerals. It’s a great gut-healthy veggie option. Roasted \asparagus is also a nutrient-packed side dish for any meal. I personally love them in an omelette.
Tomatoes feed the good bacteria in your gut and also help the bacteria attach themselves to the intestinal walls. You can add raw tomatoes to sandwiches or salads. Or, you can also make your own homemade salsa with chopped tomatoes.
When incorporating more prebiotics into your diet, start slowly. Adding too many at once can cause temporary digestive upset or bloating. Note: Those with diagnosed SIBO or dysbiosis should consult their healthcare professional before introducing more prebiotics into their diet!
Prebiotics feed the good bacteria in your gut and probiotics help populate more of the good bacteria. They go hand in hand which is why balance is so important.