What Foods With Prebiotics You Should Add To Your Diet
It seems that probiotics, microbiota, and “healthy” gut bacteria are all anyone with an interest in nutrition is talking about these days. You probably know by now that probiotics confer numerous benefits to your digestive and immune health, and perhaps you have even taken to including bio-live yogurt or probiotic supplements to your diet. If so, good for you! But we have some news you might want to hear; it turns out that simply consuming more probiotics might not be enough to guarantee good gut health. There’s a new kid on the block these days: prebiotics, and if you’re not getting enough of them then your probiotic-inclusive diet may not be reaching its full potential!
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A microbiota is a huge collection of microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, viruses, etc.) that live in and on every living thing. Ew, who cares, right? Well, it turns out, we all should. The microbiota of the human gut can have serious health implications, ranging from immune function and allergies to digestive health and even weight control. Though you, of course, can’t see them, these little guys are incredibly numerous, and there is power in numbers. The microorganisms living along with your digestive tract, constantly in flux in terms of their composition, play a major role in preventing disease, and an unbalanced gut flora can actually be the source of many ailments, digestive and otherwise. The good news is, you can exert a lot of control over your gut’s microbiota through your diet, as the composition of your gut bacteria is largely a result of what you eat!
Pre- vs. Probiotics
Though the full extent of the effects of probiotics (bacteria in your gut that is beneficial to you, the host) is still the topic of much research, it is widely agreed that probiotics have a positive impact on the functioning of your digestive and immune systems. More recent research indicates that probiotics may help with weight control and weight loss as well. Many people have begun to intentionally add probiotics to their diet, whether through dietary supplements or simply adding bio-live or active culture yogurt to their daily breakfast. And while this is considered by most professionals to be a good idea, it turns out that reaping the full benefits of the healthy bacteria in your gut may require one step further.
Adding healthy bacteria to your gut microbiota through intentionally adding probiotics to your diet is a good idea, but it is not the only way to adjust the concentration of healthy bacteria in your gut to your favor. In addition to simply adding probiotics to your digestive tract, you can use prebiotics in order to help fuel and thus reproduce the probiotics that are already there!
Probiotics are living organisms that, just like you and I, require a source of energy to live. Prebiotics are essentially that; fuel for the healthy bacteria in your gut. Prebiotics are fibers that are indigestible to humans, which means that when you consume them, they are readily available to be used by the probiotics in your digestive tract. Of course, many of the fibers that you consume on a daily basis are in fact not digestible by you, but that doesn’t mean that they all count as prebiotics. What makes prebiotics special is that they are exclusively consumed by the good bacteria in your gut, thus promoting their proliferation rather than that of harmful bacteria. As it stands right now, only three dietary fibers have been conclusively identified as prebiotics by that standard: fructooligosaccharides, galactooligosaccharides, and lactulose.
Though the research on prebiotics has an even longer way to go than that of probiotics, the health benefits of prebiotics are already though to be quite numerous — beyond simply supporting digestive health by fueling probiotics. When prebiotics is fermented by the healthy bacteria in your gut, more short-chain fatty acids may be produced. These help to support immune health by reinforcing the lining of your digestive tract, which acts as a barrier between pathogens you may have consumed and the rest of your body. Short-chain fatty acids may also help decrease your risk of cancer. A recent study also found that ingestion of prebiotics is associated with the prevention of certain allergies and the alleviation of certain digestive ailments such as Traveler’s diarrhea and IBS. For those who are most interested in the weight-control aspect of dietary health, prebiotics is thought to promote satiety, thus helping to prevent overeating. Further, prebiotics has been shown to aid in the body’s uptake of certain minerals such as calcium, thus helping to improve bone health.
Evidently, there are numerous potential health benefits to increasing your consumption of prebiotics. So, exactly how are you to do that?
Prebiotics are indigestible plant fibers, so adding high fiber plant foods to your diet is the best place to start. However, it’s important to remember the qualifier that not all of these indigestible fibers are prebiotics. Many such fibers are fueled by the bad bacteria in your gut as well as the good, so adding just any old plant fiber to your diet will not confer the prebiotic benefits you’re looking for. The foods that are naturally highest in prebiotic content are chicory, leeks, onions, garlic, sunchokes, and asparagus. They are also found, though to a lesser extent, in whole wheat, sweet potatoes, yams, and bananas.
You can also take prebiotic supplements, and in fact, some researchers speculate that the health benefits of prebiotics and probiotics may be maximized if they are consumed simultaneously. These supplements with both pre- and probiotics are called synbiotics.
If you are someone who struggles with certain allergies, IBS, or other dietary ailments, consider talking to your doctor or a healthcare professional about the potential benefits of adding a pre- and a probiotic supplement to your healthcare routine. Otherwise, it is a good idea for all of us to add foods rich in pre- and probiotics to a diverse, balanced diet, for the sake of smoother digestion and better overall health!
About The Author:
George is a health and fitness writer. You can find his work at Home remedies for Life.
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