Prebiotics are the substrate or ‘food’ that gut bacteria like to feed on thereby enhancing gut health via the proliferation of our gut microbiota. Below are some of the most well-known prebiotic foods.
Chicory Root: Chicory root contains a potent prebiotic fibre called inulin. Inulin passes through the upper gastrointestinal tract undigested and reaches the colon, where it serves as nourishment for beneficial gut bacteria like Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli. This promotes the growth and activity of these probiotic strains, contributing to a healthier gut environment. Inulin can also be brought as a prebiotic fibre in most health stores that stock a wide range of supplements. If you have an over-dominance of the gas-causing methane species, please use inulin with caution as this can promote the growth of methanogenic species.
Artichokes: Artichokes are not only delicious but also a fantastic source of prebiotic fibres, primarily in the form of inulin and fructooligosaccharides (FOS). These fibres resist digestion, reaching the colon intact to fuel the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. Additionally, artichokes possess antioxidants and phytonutrients that support overall digestive health. Please note that FOS is contraindicated in cases of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.
Garlic: Apart from its culinary appeal, garlic contains inulin, making it an excellent prebiotic food. Allicin, a compound found in garlic, also exhibits antimicrobial properties that can help balance gut flora by reducing harmful bacteria. Candida species hate garlic!!
Onions: Onions are another flavourful member of the allium family that contains prebiotic fibres, including FOS . These fibres act as a substrate for probiotics, encouraging their growth and activity, leading to improved gut health. .
Leeks: Leeks, like onions and garlic, contain FOS and inulin. These prebiotic fibres support gut health by promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria, which, in turn, can influence digestion and overall well-being.
Asparagus: Asparagus is a nutritious vegetable that contains inulin, which acts as a prebiotic to enhance gut microbial diversity. This green spear-shaped vegetable also contains vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that contribute to overall gut health.
Bananas: Unripe bananas are a great source of resistant starch, a type of prebiotic that resists digestion in the small intestine. Instead, it reaches the colon, where it fuels the growth of beneficial bacteria. As bananas ripen, the resistant starch turns into soluble fiber, providing additional gut health benefits.
Oats: Oats contain beta-glucans, a prebiotic fibre that supports gut health by stimulating the growth of beneficial bacteria. Beta-glucans have also been associated with improved immune function and may help regulate blood sugar levels.
Barley: Barley is another grain rich in beta-glucans, providing prebiotic benefits to the gut. Including barley in your diet can help improve gut microbiome composition and function.
Apples: Apples, particularly their skin, are a source of pectin, a prebiotic fibre that can help improve gut health by promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria. Apples also contain other essential nutrients and antioxidants that contribute to overall digestive well-being.
Cocoa: Cocoa and dark chocolate contain prebiotic fibres, including resistant starch and inulin. However, it’s important to consume them in moderation due to their higher calorie and sugar content.
Flaxseeds: Flaxseeds are rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), omega-3 fatty acids, and lignans. In addition to being a good source of fibre, flaxseeds provide prebiotic support to nurture a healthy gut environment.
Incorporating these prebiotic-rich foods into your diet can have a positive impact on your gut health, but remember to consume them alongside probiotic-rich foods (like fermented foods) to maximize the benefits. A diverse and balanced diet, along with other gut-supporting practices, will help you achieve optimal gut health and overall well-being. As a caution, some patients can feel substantially worse when consuming fibre-rich foods . If this is you, please seek professional help as the most likely cause of a lowered intolerance to fibre-rich foods (causing symptoms like gas and bloating), is a bacterial imbalance in the digestive tract.