Prebiotics are 'non digestible food ingredients that beneficially affect the host by selectively stimulating the growth and/or activity of one or limited number of bacteria in the colon that can improve the host'.
Prebiotics are only found in plants, mostly vegetables. These plant fibres are not digested by us. They make there way through our small intestine to our colon relatively unchanged. When they get to the colon they act as food that can stimulate the bacteria. The bacteria ferment them that's why you often hear them referred to as 'fermentable fibres'.
Top Seven Foods
Jerusalem artichokes: Also known as sun chokes. They are a member of the sunflower family, a great source of minerals. Can be eaten raw or boiled, mashed, sautéed and roasted and have a nutty flavour.
Dandelion Greens: The best known herb. A member of the sunflower family and are high in vitamins and minerals. However, they are not readily available in stores in Australia. Can be used raw in salads or smoothies or lightly steamed.
Garlic and Onions: Both members of the allium family. Both have been revered through time as food and as medicine. Can be eaten raw, roasted or sautéed.
Leeks: A member of the Allium family. Prized throughout history for its medicinal benefits. Can be eaten raw, sautéed or pureed for soups.
Chicory root: A member of the dandelion family. It has the highest concentration of inulin. Used mostly as a coffee substitute and can also help regulate blood sugar.
Underripe bananas: Have the highest amount of resistant starch. When bananas are green they have no sugar.
Asparagus: 300 varieties of asparagus worldwide. They have been around for 2000 years as a food and herbal medicine. It can be sautéed, blanched or roasted.
Benefits of these Foods
- These foods are excellent for digestive health, they stimulate growth of beneficial bacteria (probiotics). They act like food for the bacteria and stimulate the bacteria already in the colon. They balance out the harmful bacteria by lowering the pH of the gut. They also inhibit the growth of pathogens.
- Once the bacteria has ingested the food they produce Short Chain Fatty Acids (SCFA) which help protect the intestinal lining as well as offer fuel to the cells. They play a role in the prevention and treatment of metabolic syndrome and bowel disorders. They also have a positive effect on the treatment of ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease and antibiotic associated diarrhoea.
- As 80% of our immune system is in our gut prebiotics positively influence how the immune system reacts.
- Research shows us that there is an association to mood, anxiety and depression due to the gut/brain connection. Your gut bacteria helps to absorb and metabolise nutrients from food you eat which are made into hormones like serotonin (happy hormone) which play a role in mood.
- A positive impact on bone health, as prebiotics enhance the absorption of minerals like calcium and magnesium. Studies have shown the increase in these nutrients lead to an increase in bone density.
- Weight can be positively influenced by the prebiotics, lowering the risk of obesity. High fibre intake allows the energy from food to be better utilised and this gives you a feeling of fullness and can lower your body weight. It makes you produce less grehlin (which is the hormone used to stimulate appetite, increase food intake and promote fat storage).
- Consuming high fibre foods can lower cholesterol levels and lower your risk of cardiovascular disease and they can also impact on blood pressure due to their levelling affect on electrolyte and mineral levels.
As you can see from a health stance it is worth getting prebiotics into your diet daily . There are supplements that you can take but eating fresh whole foods is always a better option. They are fantastic when used together with probiotic foods for enhanced health.
Top tip: When introducing prebiotics start low and go slow. They can make you very gassy and if you go to hard to fast this will be a problem. The bacteria usually adjusts within two weeks.
They can be problematic for some people. Let me know have you introduced more prebiotics into your diet?
What if anything did you notice?