Prebiotic foods have been proven to offer a vast number of health benefits. Ongoing research keeps surfacing the countless health and wellness advantages associated with prebiotics. This ingredient that promotes the growth of the so-called “beneficial microorganisms” can regulate many of your body’s vital functions. In this article, we will discuss the importance of prebiotics and share with you a comprehensive list of prebiotic foods you should start eating right away. Because many of you are wondering what is the difference between probiotics and prebiotics, we will shed light on that as well.
What Are Prebiotics?
Prebiotic is a term used to describe the different types of fiber that encourage flora growth in the gut. They are non-digestible, yet the flora in our stomach can really blossom on them. When we introduce more prebiotics foods in our system, the gut flora gains more nourishment, thus helping with its growth.
Our gut has about 100 trillion bacteria. But don’t worry – it’s mostly “good” bacteria that does not harm our health. However, these bacteria often end up “starving” because of our modern lifestyle. Things like antibiotics, antimicrobial cleansers, fast-food, saturated fats, and simple carbohydrates, can jeopardize the beneficial bacteria.
So what is the difference between probiotics and prebiotics?
While probiotics have gained quite a reputation, prebiotics is its less-known sibling. They may sound similar but the two play different roles.
Probiotics are live bacteria which we consume with certain foods or supplements.
Prebiotics are ingredients contained in various types of carbohydrates. Basically, they are food for probiotics.
Probiotic foods include yogurt, kefir, cheese, sauerkraut, kimchi, pickled veggies, miso, sourdough bread, kombucha, tempeh. You can also get your probiotics from beer and wine. Their health benefits are potentially wide as well, and may include lowered risk of colon cancer, the reduction of cholesterol levels, improved immune system, and more. However, more research is in order, as scientists have yet to fully grasp the connection between the bacteria in the gut and the rest of our body.
Prebiotic foods usually come in the form of fiber. We will expand this subject just below.
What Are the Health Benefits of Prebiotic Foods?
More and more people begin to understand the major role of the gut in our overall health. Because prebiotics are essential to creating and preserving a healthy microbiome. Let’s find out just what makes them so important.
1. Improving bowel functions
After consumption, prebiotic foods reach the large intestine where the healthy bacteria can start growing. This growth leads to an increase of gut biomass that ultimately results in an increased fecal frequency. Consequently, improved bowel functions enable better regularity. Particularly those who suffer from constipation will notice a significant improvement in their condition.
2. Improving the health of diabetics
Diabetics must be extra cautious when ingesting too many carbs. However, inulin is allowed, since it is not absorbed after consumption. Inulin, a soluble dietary fiber, does not affect the blood glucose levels, the secretion of glucagon, or the secretion of insulin.
Additionally, dietary fibers can ameliorate the symptoms of diabetes. They can slow down the nutrient absorption rate, which will show through the blood sugar levels.
3. Lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease
Epidemiologic studies show how to consumption of adequate fiber can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease. This is the result of the reduction of the low-density lipoprotein levels. Fiber may also play a key role in reducing the apolipoprotein and C-reactive protein levels, and the blood pressure. These are all biomarkers for cardiovascular disease.
4. Controlling appetite
Fibers are also known to influence satiation. To be more specific – we can observe a greater satiation with fiber-rich foods. This may be a product of the increased time needed to chew certain foods of this kind. As a consequence, chewing encourages the production of saliva and gastric acid. These effects may be responsible for gastric distention, believed to trigger signals of fullness. Furthermore, some fibers may also slow down gastric emptying and increase the glucose absorption rate in the small intestine. This, too, is sometimes correlated with the feeling of satiation.
5. Preventing gastroenteritis
This common disease occurs with the ingestion of food or liquid contaminated with “bad” (pathogenic) microorganisms and their toxins. These pathogens grow to colonize the gastrointestinal tract and invade the human tissue. They can also secrete toxins in food or water before ingestion. The damages caused by the toxins include nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. However, prebiotics may possibly help prevent gastroenteritis disease because it promotes the growth of useful microorganisms in our large intestine.
6. Preventing inflammatory bowel disease
This disease has been linked to intestinal microbiota pathogenesis. One of the ways doctors intervene is by administering probiotic treatment. Prebiotics are also administered as an additional treatment. Prebiotic foods based on germinated barley, glutamine rich protein, and hemicelluloses dietary fiber have been shown to reduce the incidence of mucosal injury and bloody diarrhea.
7. Reducing the risk of cancer
Prebiotics have been found to decrease the activity of the genotoxic enzyme. A study has shown that galactooligosaccharide (part of the prebiotics group) can decrease the nitroreductase (carcinogenic substances) level, and also lower the levels of isovaleric and indole acids.
8. Increasing calcium absorption
Bone mass is dependent on calcium. In the case of a deficiency, osteoporosis may occur. Today, osteoporosis treatment and prevention is restricted to elevating the calcium uptake and stimulating the formation of bone. Prebiotic consumption has been shown to increase calcium absorption, according to data from rat studies. However, more human trials must be conducted to establish a real connection between prebiotics and decreased risk for osteoporosis.
10 Prebiotic Foods that Should Be on Your List
Full of fiber, folate, and different other B-vitamins, asparagus is one of the best prebiotic foods your tummy. It can be eaten raw, grilled, or sautéed. Furthermore, it’s naturally sweet taste makes it perfect even for a green smoothie. It is also a natural diuretic, and will help those who suffer from bloating.
Bananas are packed with fiber that promotes healthy bacterial growth. They are great sources of potassium. You can get about 9 percent of your recommended daily intake of potassium from just one medium-sized banana. It even offers vitamin C. However, we advise on eating riper bananas instead of the green ones, as they are easier to digest. It’s best to eat them raw, but you can make yourself a delicious smoothie if you throw them in a blender along with other fruits or veggies.
Soybeans and other beans are a great replacement for animal protein. Increasing your prebiotic foods intake can lower the levels of fat and cholesterol. Beans also bring multiple essential nutrients to the table: iron, magnesium, phosphorous, protein, potassium, copper and, of course, fiber. It would be ideal to toss them in your leafy green salad, but you can also make a tasty dip, or mix them in some of your baked goods.
A rich source of inulin, garlic also provides Vitamin B6, a nutrient that sustains the nervous system health. This is one superfood that can promote good bacteria growth and kick out the bad one. Its unique flavor makes it a nice addition to hummus, soups, rice dishes, and stir-fries.
Of all the prebiotic foods, the onion is probably the cheapest but one of the most delicious to use for flavor. This natural source of inulin is ideal for proper digestion. If you cannot eat raw onion, sauté or boil them before, as they may cause indigestion in some individuals.
Try legumes such as lentils, green peas, and chickpeas for your daily intake of protein, B vitamins, and iron. They are easier to digest than beans, but don’t worry – they are just as nutritious. It can boost the healthy bacteria in the gut thanks to the right amount of fiber they contain and the natural sugars that go lighter on the stomach.
If opting for lentils, it’s best you soak them for an easier digestion. Alternatively, you can use presoaked canned lentils. Just make sure they are BPA-free.
We also recommend edamame, but any other legume is an equally good choice.
Artichokes are a particular fantastic prebiotic food for your gut. Stacked on fiber and extremely low in net carbs, there are helpful for the blood sugar levels. As always, when buying canned version of the thistle, go for the BPA-free product when possible. You can use artichoke in salads, soups, and detox recipes.
The prebiotic properties of cabbage are one of the reasons it is used as a base for dishes like kimchi and sauerkraut. It offers alkalinizing minerals, B vitamins, and a pretty good amount of vitamin C. You can use it raw as a sandwich wrap, or as an ingredient in soups, coleslaw, and other recipes.
Apples are a great source of inulin, natural FOS (natural sugars), and pectin fiber. These all contribute to the wellbeing of your gut, while also protecting you from high cholesterol. To avoid high sugar intake, opt for the Granny Smith kind.
Bran houses a great amount of insoluble fiber that will feed the “hungry” gut bacteria. As a result, it improves regularity and reduces the cholesterol level. Whether buying oat, rice, wheat, barley, rye, or any other type of bran, make sure you choose the organic version. You should also go for the whole varieties, as bran is just one part of the grain. You can add bran into your porridge, or use it in cookie and muffin recipes.
In conclusion, include as many prebiotic foods into your diet as you can to make the most out of their health-beneficial properties. Leafy greens, celery, whole grains, beans, seeds, legumes, these are all packed with fiber and can assist in digestion. See what works best for your body and expand to other options only if your system allows.