Thanks to science, we’re learning more about the hidden benefits of the foods we indulge in almost every day. Terms that were previously unknown to us are now mainstream.
This article is all about prebiotic foods and the benefits they can deliver. There’s something for almost every diet and taste—the category is pleasantly diverse.
Our list of the top prebiotic foods includes:
Table of Contents
What Are Prebiotic Foods?
You already get the gist of it, so let’s start by defining prebiotics.
The term means any naturally-occurring dietary fiber that doesn’t get broken down in your stomach like other nutrients.
That means when you eat prebiotic foods, the fiber passes through your digestive system intact—a little gross, but it has to be said.
On the journey through your gut, they ferment and produce short-chain fatty acids (SFCA’s). Specifically, acids such as butyrate, acetate, and propionate.
If you want to go deeper, this video from the Canadian Digestive Health Foundation (CDHF) shares more about this fiber:
Prebiotic Foods vs. Probiotics
The two terms sound misleadingly similar, but they’re not. Although probiotics are similarly beneficial for health, they’re live bacteria—nothing to do with dietary fiber.
Are Prebiotic Foods Healthy?
There’s no doubt that these foods are healthy. For one, the special dietary fiber is in many wholesome, nourishing foods.
Next, those short-chain fatty acids (SFCA’s) we talked about can have whole-body effects to enhance your well-being.
Prebiotics act as an energy source for all the good microbiota—organisms—which regulate and sustain your gut.
Bear in mind that abnormalities in your tummy are associated with nasty conditions such as IBS and ulcerative colitis—and all the distressful symptoms these entail.
The fiber also works to decrease stomach acidity, which allows friendly bacteria the opportunity to thrive. Plus, excess gastric acid can result in heartburn, ulcers, and bleeding—none of which you want to experience.
Lower Disease Risk
When your gut is happy, your risk of dreaded illnesses such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease decreases. You can even combat the chances of ailments that affect the brain, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease.
If you think that this protection takes months to manifest, you’d be wrong. Changing the environment in your digestive system for the better can take as little as 24 hours.
Boost Weight Loss
Prebiotics are an excellent complement to probiotics where it concerns shedding pounds. Remember, the dietary fiber supports valuable organisms in the gut—it can boost the positive effects of probiotics to readdress the balance.
Stronger Immune System
You guessed it—your gut can influence your immunity too.
The multiple species which reside in your digestive tract can keep your immune system doing its job—namely, keeping you in good shape.
What Are Prebiotic Foods?
As we touched on earlier, prebiotic foods are abundant—many of which you probably already eat. Even the pickiest eaters should find at least one type appealing. You can find these healthful nutrients in:
- Legumes and beans.
- Nuts and seeds.
Legumes and Beans
Many are rich sources of prized prebiotics. Take chickpeas, common beans, and lentils: per 100 grams of carbohydrates, 12 to 15 grams consist of dietary fiber. Lentils, in particular, have high quantities of this nutrient.
Soybeans are also potential carriers of this valuable compound. Animal trials showed that soybean oligosaccharides (SBOs) boosted gut function in mice.
That isn’t the only reason you should think about incorporating more legumes into your diet. They’re low-fat, contain vitamins such as iron, copper, and magnesium; plus, many are also rich in protein.
There are a few contraindications here. Some people are susceptible to legume allergies. Those of you sticking to a low-carb diet like keto will likely want to skip out on these foods.
- Kidney beans.
- Red beans.
- White beans.
Fruits have a long association with wellness and health, but it’s only recently that they’ve been identified as a prebiotic food.
Pectin is among the most researched type due to its impressive abilities. The compound can work against high blood sugar and cholesterol and delayed gastric emptying.
This compound can also up the survival rates of probiotics such as Lactobacillus, giving them a chance to do good in your gut. Additionally, it’s also known to have anti-cancer effects.
You’re not limited with choices, even if your fruit tastes lean towards the exotic. Dragon fruit contains oligosaccharides, a type of prebiotic that may improve digestion.
There’s a long list of pectin-rich fruits for you to consider. Now, the downside is that almost all fruits contain fructose, a natural sugar. That puts the majority of delectable favorites such as bananas and peaches on the blacklist for low-carb eaters.
Alas, another class of foods that’s a no-go for most keto and Paleo dieters. If you follow an open-ended diet, you’ll want to tuck into cereal grains—they’re a great prebiotic food.
That statement is especially true of whole grains, like oats, which can also reduce your chances of cardiometabolic disorders—like stroke and heart attack.
Oats have a wealth of non-starch polysaccharides (NSPs)—a known prebiotic. These NSP’s encourage the production of SFCAs and helps healthy gut organisms thrive.
Barley is another prebiotic powerhouse, containing something called beta-glucans. This substance can improve the restorative effects of probiotics in your gut.
Other advantages of this barley-derived agent are lower cholesterol, blood sugar, and improved immunity.
Cereal grains can increase bacteria populations in the gut too. However, it isn’t yet certain whether it can also promote diversity—you want a balance of species.
Finally, a foodstuff that matches practically every way of eating.
Veggies are bountiful sources of minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients. They’re crucial for maintaining health and linked to a lower overall risk for chronic diseases.
Inulin, a type of fermentable dietary fiber, is one compound that makes vegetables an optimal prebiotic food. It can reduce incidences of stomach discomfort, keep hunger levels under control, and amplify good gut bacteria.
So what vegetables, specifically, should you be chowing down on?
Jerusalem artichokes show promise in animal trials as a prebiotic source to boost overall immunity and gut function. Chicory roots are somewhat similar, with the potential to regulate digestive hormones.
There are others that you’re probably well-acquainted with—for instance, onions, garlic, and asparagus.
- Spring onions.
- Chicory roots.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are a big serving of nourishment in small packages. They’ve been part of our diets for centuries, with good reason.
Take nuts—they can decrease cholesterol and keep your risk of diabetes low. Other possible benefits of snacking on nuts are anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory effects.
Seeds are equally healthful: low in fat and high in valuable micronutrients. As with nuts, these plant edibles were a sizable part of the hunter-gatherer diet.
The high fiber content of both classifies them as prebiotic foods with potential. The benefits in this respect are primarily related to managing obesity—although further scientific trials must be done.
- Chia seeds.
In terms of prebiotic food, honey isn’t as prominent as the others we’ve discussed—more research is required.
However, there is promise: a type of sugar called oligosaccharides inside the sweet nectar appears to have prebiotic activity.
Nonetheless, there’s plenty to motivate you to take a taste besides the delicious flavor.
Honey is a remarkable remedy in traditional medicine for good reason—and many of these curative properties are established.
The sticky liquid has anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and antioxidant abilities. These are both internal and external—honey can repair wounds too.
We’ll round up our guide with a couple of frequently asked questions.
Do Prebiotic Foods Need to be Eaten Raw?
As there is a multitude of prebiotic foods, that answer will depend on what you’re eating. For example, you wouldn’t eat cooked watermelon—or raw kidney beans.
Be aware that cooking transforms the composition of certain foods.
Do Prebiotic Foods Cause Gas?
There are so many prebiotic foods—we can’t generalize. If you rarely eat fiber, then you may have a somewhat gassy adjustment period.
Chronic flatulence could warn of an allergy or food intolerance. You’ll have to monitor how you react to any new foods you try.
What Is the Best Prebiotic to Take?
We can understand that some of you might prefer your prebiotics in supplement form. If you’re not a fan of calculating macros, they may be a more appealing alternative.
Always ensure the brand you buy is compatible with your dietary needs. Not every supplement is free of gluten, soy, nuts, or other potential allergens.
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