8 Best Prebiotic Foods for Digestive Health – Foods Containing Prebiotics
You’ve probably heard of eating more probioticslive microorganisms that control your gut health, but have you heard of eating more prebiotics, food for these microorganisms? We spoke with experts to understand what prebiotics are, why you need them, and what are the best prebiotic foods to support your gut.
Why do we need to eat for gut health?
The food we eat has a huge impact on our overall gut health, explains Rachael Hartley, Dt.P.author of Soft food. “The simple act of eating yourself and having food in your stomach triggers a cascade of muscle contractions that move food through your gut,” she explains. First, proteins, fats and carbohydrates trigger the release of digestive enzymes that break food down into smaller and smaller pieces. Some parts are absorbed for energy and the rest are left to contribute to the gut microbiome, the community of organisms that live in the gut, Hartley says.
The health of our microbiome impacts our mental health, immunity and risk of chronic disease, she adds, and the foods we eat can affect our bowel movements and the speed at which food moves. in the intestine.
What are prebiotics?
There’s actually quite a difference between prebiotics and probiotics. While probiotics, like yogurt or miso, are foods fortified with good gut microflora, prebiotics are foods that contain the nutrients needed to nourish that gut microflora, explains Sunny Jain, MDgastroenterologist and Genomic Sun founder.
These foods contain indigestible dietary fiber that the human body cannot break down and absorb through the intestinal tract like other minerals and vitamins. So the good gut microbes work to metabolize and ferment these prebiotic fibers that ultimately benefit us and our gut health, he adds. The compounds strengthen the lining of the colon, boost the immune system and may reduce the risk of colon cancer, Hartley says.
“To be clear, the purpose of a prebiotic food is not to provide nutrition to you and your physiology, but to your commensal gut microbes and their microphysiology, generally referred to as gut health,” says Dr. Jain. “By feeding these beneficial gut microflora, we, the host, benefit from the molecules they release into our gut, such as short-chain fatty acids. If you’re not giving your good gut bugs the prebiotics they need, you may end up with a leaky gut.
So you might think that the highest calorie food is the best for feeding your gut, right? Well, not so much. Dr. Jain explains that your gut contains both good and bad germs, and inflammatory foods like fried foods or high glycemic index foods with simple sugars or high fructose corn syrup serve as made of food to harmful gut microbes. Instead, opt for high-fiber foods rich in gut benefits.
However Sameer Berry, MDchief physician at Oshi Health notes that it is important to remember other factors such as genetics, lifestyle choices and environmental influences when it comes to our gut health, diet is one factor we box control. Here are the best prebiotic foods for gut health to add to your diet.
The Best Prebiotic Foods for Gut Health
Lentils, legumes, and beans all fall under the legumes umbrella and each provides vital prebiotics to the gut. Lenses for example, not only do they contain manganese, potassium, folate and iron, but they have a huge 16 grams of fiber per cup, which can help with digestion and gastrointestinal health. Additionally, lentils provide resistant starch that is not digested by the small intestine but can be fermented by gut bacteria, Dr. Berry says.
Your salad can help. Leafy greens like kale bring fiber, folate and B vitamins to your plate in addition to vitamin C, and to research suggests that leafy greens may increase the growth of healthy gut bacteria.
Due to the high fiber content found in 100% whole grain foods, such as brown rice, whole grain breads and whole grain pastas, they act as a prebiotic in the gut, explains Nicole Lindel, RDN. And while we all love whole grains, oats, in particular, can pack prebiotics. A bowl of plain oatmeal with fresh fruit and nut butter contains soluble fiber and vitamin E that boost immunity and get things moving in your gut. Dr. Berry adds that bacteria in the gut ferment the soluble fiber found in oats, which can lead to beneficial short-chain fatty acids in the colon and can potentially lower LDL cholesterol.
Sometimes also called Jerusalem artichokes, these root vegetables are rich in vitamins, potassium, iron and fiber. But they’re best known for the high amounts of prebiotic fiber present, which can help support health, blood sugar control, weight management, and overall health. Dr. Berry notes that Jerusalem artichokes are also a high-FODMAP (fermentable oligo-di-mono-saccharides and polyols) food. These foods are poorly absorbed in the small intestine and often ferment rapidly in the large intestine, he explains. Many people benefit from these foods because they support a healthy gut microbiome and provide prebiotics, but others are sensitive and can cause gastrointestinal upset, he warns.
Onions, leeks, garlic and shallots
You may hear this group referred to in reference to a low FODMAP diet plus dozens of other fruits, vegetables and sugars. But, for those who don’t suffer from gastrointestinal issues from these foods, they can provide much-needed prebiotics. In addition, Garlic contains antioxidants, vitamin C, selenium and Green onions have antioxidants that can prevent inflammation, more fiber than expected (5% of daily intake), and a good amount of vitamin C.
Packed with inulin fiber, dandelion greens have been shown to reduce constipation, boost the immune system, provide anti-inflammatory properties and increase good gut bacteria. If you’ve never tried green, give this Fried dandelion toast recipe to try.
Belonging to the dandelion family, to research discovered that chicory is rich in prebiotic inulin fiber, which can improve digestion, bowel function and relieve constipation. Dr. Berry notes that chicory root is often added to processed foods like fiber bars, gluten-free foods, and some cereals. Although it is used to increase fiber content and naturally sweeten products, the ingredient can sometimes cause unwanted gastrointestinal upset in some people.
Similar to the benefits of other vegetables like broccoli and leafy greens, cabbage contains a large amount of fiber, vitamin K, vitamin A and iron. To research showed that cabbage (especially raw cabbage) offers the gut prebiotics that can improve gut health.
Arielle Weg is associate editor of Prevention and enjoys sharing her favorite wellness and nutrition obsessions. She previously managed content for The Vitamin Shoppe, and her work has also appeared in Women’s health, Men’s health, Light cooking, My recipes, and more. You can usually find her doing an online workout class or messing around in the kitchen, creating something delicious that she found in her cookbook collection or saved on Instagram.