Prebiotics foods are foods rich in un-digestible fiber that serve as foods for the probiotics or good bacteria in the large intestine. The more prebiotics you eat, the more efficiently these live probiotic bacteria work and the healthier your gut will be.
There are two types of food fiber: digestible and undigestible. Digestible fibers are absorbed and digested by our small intestine while the undigestible fibers simply pass the small intestine and go directly to the large intestine where the probiotic bacteria are residing.
Samples of Prebiotic Foods
Chicory Root is a perennial herb that contains dietary fiber inulin. It is the familiar ground coffee substitute that is popular in New Orleans.
You can find Inulin in fruits and vegetables like gum arabic, bananas, artichoke, garlic, onions, dandelion, yacon, asparagus, barley oats, and seaweeds. Our digestive tract cannot digest the fiber inulin so it passes through into the large intestine where it is served as the food for the beneficial bacteria enabling them to increase in number.
Gum Arabic is commonly used as a food emulsifier. It is also called acacia fiber. It comes from the sap of Acacia Senegal tree, a small shrub-like species from Africa. It contains a high amount of soluble fibers that nourish our gut microbiota.
Jerusalem artichoke or Sunroot is a species of sunflower native to eastern North America. The roots can be eaten as a side dish or roasted with margarine and salt. When eaten they contain dietary fibers that promote health in our gut.
Dandelion Greens belong to the family of sunflower. Its flowers, leaves, and roots are all edible. They provide a higher amount of calcium, vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin E or carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin than other cultivated greens. Lutein and zeaxanthin are key factors for protecting our eyes. They filter harmful ultraviolet light and help protect and maintain healthy cells in the eyes. Of the 600 carotenoids found in nature, only these two are deposited in high quantities in the retina of the eye. Dandelion leaves have a slight, pleasant, somewhat bitter earthy flavor. Another health benefit from this plant is the way it promotes urine production for people with liver, kidney or gallbladder problems. A study also revealed that extract from dandelion leaves controlled the growth of certain cancer cells. Aside from many nutrients that we get from the leaves, they are also a good source of prebiotic fibers that nourish our bacterial gut.
Jicama or Yacon is a very low-calorie root vegetable that belongs to the bean family of plants. Rounded in shape, it has a thick skin compared to other root vegetables like potato. Its white fruit flavored tuber can be eaten raw or cooked with other vegetables. It is an excellent source of oligofructose inulin, a soluble dietary fiber, vitamin C, vitamin b complex, magnesium, copper, iron, and manganese.
Garlic is a common worldwide seasoning ingredient. Eating raw garlic promotes the growth of beneficial Bifidobacteria in the gut. Approximately 11% of garlic’s fiber content comes from oligofructose inulin and 6% from a sweet, naturally occurring prebiotic called fructooligosaccharides (FOS). It also prevents disease-promoting bacteria from growing.
Leeks and Onion come from the same family of garlic and are commonly used as a food seasoning. Aside from adding flavor to the foods we eat, they are rich in inulin prebiotic fiber and vitamin K. Eaten raw or cooked, they help gut bacteria multiply, improving overall gut health, as well as release metabolic by-products that can influence brain functions, improve sleep and reduce stress.
Asparagus is a spring perennial vegetable rich in prebiotic fiber and antioxidants. It promotes healthy gut bacteria and may help prevent certain cancers. The young shoots may be eaten raw or cooked. It also contains a good supply of fiber, calcium, potassium, phosphorous, vitamins A and C, riboflavin, and niacin.
Barley and Oats are popular healthy grains with prebiotic benefits. Beta-glucan fiber promotes the growth of good bacteria in the digestive tract. The beta glucan prebiotics has been shown to lower the level of total and LDL cholesterol, and may also help to keep blood sugar level down. Barley is rich in selenium which is important for thyroid gland functions.
Marine macroalgae or seaweeds are one of nature’s resources of bioactive compounds. These compounds provide important applications in food, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics. Macroalgae contain polysaccharides a prebiotic dietary fiber.
Are prebiotic foods good for us?
We may not be accustomed to eating fermented probiotic foods and drinks which contain beneficial bacteria for our gut health. But still, we can obtain gut protection from those probiotic bacteria by feeding them with prebiotic foods that we eat. The best is: we have to eat probiotic and prebiotic foods for our optimum health.