Prebiotics are an essential component of improving gut health. Here’s everything you need to know about what are prebiotics and how to eat more of them.
Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of gut health and the need to nourish a healthy gut microbiome. Imbalances in the gut’s microbiome lead to digestive issues, while many other potential effects can be felt throughout the body—from feelings of fatigue to depression, thyroid dysfunction, autoimmunity, and a host of skin issues. Conditions like rosacea, psoriasis, eczema, and acne are really inflammatory conditions, and often a manifestation of something that is happening deeper within the body. When you fix the gut, skin issues often resolve as well.
What are prebiotics?
Prebiotics are a class of dietary fibres found in some plants, including bananas, chicory root, garlic, Jerusalem artichokes and onions.. They act as the fertilizer and nourishment for all of the good bacteria in your gut. All prebiotics are classified as fibre, which is the indigestible portion of plants. But all fibres are not prebiotics.
Dietary fibre can be split into two categories: soluble fibre, which is fermented by gut bacteria, and insoluble fibre, which is not fermentable and acts as roughage. Although prebiotics are a soluble fibre, not all soluble fibres are prebiotics because they are not all metabolized by beneficial gut microbes.
Like all fibre, prebiotics are not absorbed by the body. Instead, they go to the colon—and that’s where the magic happens. In the colon, they’re fermented by good bacteria, ultimately providing a vast array of prebiotic benefits that include:
- Improving digestive health
- Fighting chronic inflammation and disease
- Boosting immunity
- Possibly helping with satiety
- Helping you manage weight
What foods contain prebiotics?
Examples of prebiotic soluble fibre foods include:
- Bananas (ripe)
- Chicory Root
- Dandelion Greens
- Fennel Bulb
- Jerusalem Artichokes (also known as Sunchokes)
- Pulses (dried beans, lentils, split peas and chickpeas)
- Savoy Cabbage
2. Resistant starches
These prebiotics may be especially great for helping with satiety. These starches resist digestion and make their way into the gut where they act as prebiotics while they also make cells more responsive to insulin for better blood sugar control.
Examples of prebiotic resistant starch foods include:
- Uncooked oats
- Cooked and cooled potato
- Grains that are cooked, and then cooled (pastas, oats)
- Unripe bananas
- Unripe green banana flour
- Unmodified potato starch
*Pulses contain soluble fibre and resistant starch: a double-punch of benefits for health-promoting gut microbes.