Prebiotics…what are they??
They’re a certain type of fibre that our “good” gut bacteria thrive on. Gut bacteria produce many nutrients that our bodies need, but can’t get from our diet. Prebiotics seem to be more important than taking probiotics because without prebiotics, the probiotics cannot thrive.
The 11 Best Prebiotic Foods You Should Eat
Prebiotics are a form of dietary fibre that feed the “friendly” bacteria in your gut.
This allows your gut bacteria to produce nutrients for your colon cells, which leads to a healthier digestive system (1Trusted Source). These nutrients can be absorbed into your bloodstream and improve metabolic health (3).
However, prebiotics shouldn’t be confused with probiotics. Probiotics are live bacteria found in certain foods or supplements. Much of these bacteria reside in your gut, and the majority are quite harmless. Some are helpful, and a small number can cause disease if they outnumber the good bacteria.
1. Chicory root
Chicory root comes from a flowering plant in the dandelion family. It’s popular for its coffee-like flavour and has historically been used in cooking and medicine.
Approximately 68% of chicory root fibre comes from the prebiotic fibre inulin (4Trusted Source). Inulin in chicory root improves digestion and bowel function, and helps relieve constipation (5, 6, 7Trusted Source).
It may also help prevent diabetes by raising levels of adiponectin, a protein that helps control blood glucose levels (8Trusted Source).
Additionally, chicory root is high in antioxidant compounds that may protect your liver from oxidative damage (9).
2. Dandelion greens
Dandelions are a family of flowering plants, and their greens can be cooked or consumed raw. They’re a great source of fibre.
They contain 1.92 grams of fibre per 1 cup (55 grams) (10Trusted Source). A high portion of this fibre comes from inulin (11Trusted Source).
The inulin fibre in dandelion greens reduces constipation, increases friendly bacteria in your gut, and boosts your immune system (11Trusted Source).
Dandelion greens are also known for their anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anticancer effects (12, 13, 14).
3. Jerusalem artichoke
The Jerusalem artichoke — also known as the sunroot, sunchoke, or earth apple — is part of the sunflower family and has great health benefits.
Known for its sunflower-like appearance, the vegetable provides about 2 grams of inulin-rich dietary fibre per 100 grams (13Trusted Source).
Garlic is a flavourful herb linked to various health benefits due to its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and lipid-lowering properties (19Trusted Source).
Garlic acts as a prebiotic by promoting the growth of beneficial Bifidobacteria in the gut. It also helps prevent disease-promoting bacteria from growing (20).
Research shows that different compounds in garlic reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, have anti-tumor effects, and lower blood glucose levels (19Trusted Source).
Onions are a tasty and versatile vegetable linked to various health benefits. Similar to garlic, onions are rich in inulin and FOS (22Trusted Source, 23Trusted Source).
Onions are also rich in the flavonoid quercetin, which gives onions antioxidant and anticancer properties (24Trusted Source).
Additionally, onions have antibiotic properties and may provide benefits for your cardiovascular system (26Trusted Source, 27).Trusted Source
Leeks come from the same family as onions and garlic, and they offer similar health benefits.
Leeks are nutrient dense, which means they’re low in calories but high in vitamins and minerals. Thanks to their inulin content, leeks promote healthy gut bacteria and help break down fat (28).
The nutritious vegetable naturally contains inulin, which can improve your digestive health and help your body maintain optimum levels of glucose and insulin (33).
Inulin is also a soluble fibre, which feeds the friendly bacteria in the gut, such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus (34Trusted Source).
Bananas are more than a delicious fruit: They’re rich in vitamins, minerals, and fibre, and they contain small amounts of inulin.
Unripe (green) bananas are high in resistant starch, which has prebiotic effects (37Trusted Source).
Barley is a popular cereal grain and is used to make beer. It contains 2–20 grams of beta-glucan per 100 grams (39).
Beta-glucan is a prebiotic fibre that promotes the growth of friendly bacteria in your digestive tract (40Trusted Source, 41, 42Trusted Source).
The beta-glucan in barley has also been shown to lower total and LDL (bad) cholesterol and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. It may also help lower blood sugar levels (43Trusted Source).
Plus, barley is rich in selenium. This helps with thyroid function, provides antioxidant benefits, and boosts your immune system (45Trusted Source 46, 47Trusted Source).
Whole oats are a healthy grain with prebiotic benefits. They contain large amounts of beta-glucan fibre, as well as some resistant starch.
Beta-glucan from oats has been linked to (47Trusted Source, 48Trusted Source, 49Trusted Source):
• healthy gut bacteria
• lower LDL (bad) cholesterol
• better blood sugar control
• reduced cancer risk
Furthermore, it has been shown to slow digestion and help control appetite (50Trusted Source, 51Trusted Source).
Apples are a delicious fruit with fibre. Pectin, a type of soluble fibre, accounts for much an apple’s total fibre content. The pectin in apples has prebiotic benefits.
A 2016 study found that pectin from apples could promote healthy gut microbiota, decrease inflammation, and suppress weight gain and fat accumulation in rats with obesity (52Trusted Source).
Pectin increases butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid that feeds beneficial gut bacteria and decreases the population of harmful bacteria (53Trusted Source, 54).