Prebiotics 101: The Importance & Best Foods

When your gut is healthy, you thrive. The gut really is at the epicenter of overall health, and when you treat it right by taking care of yourself, it rewards you with better sleep, a strong immune system, a happy belly, tons of energy, and strong bones. Sounds awesome right? Here’s how you do it. Minimally processed foods. Plenty of water. Get plenty of sleep. Manage stress. And prebiotics in your diet!

Prebiotics are our favorite gut-healthy friends that help us promote the best gut health we can. We’re going to dive into the importance of prebiotics, how you can easily incorporate them into our diet, and how to heighten the effectiveness of our fiber-friends with the best sources of prebiotics.

What are Prebiotics?

The human body has trillions of living bacteria inside it, and many of this bacteria is found in our digestive system. Healthy guts are full of good-guy bacteria called probiotics, which survive by feeding on prebiotics. Both prebiotics and probiotics work hard to keep us healthy.

While many of us have probably heard of probiotics a time or two, let’s address the big question in the room—what is prebiotic fiber and why does the gut love these guys so much too?

Prebiotic fiber is a type of inulin soluble fiber that can be found in many of our favorite fruits and vegetables. (There’s also resistant starch - a non-fiber prebiotic, but we’ll save that explanation for another day!)

Prebiotic fiber is nonliving and has the super strength to withstand the body’s changing temperatures and strong stomach acid after we eat them. Prebiotics are able to travel all the way through the digestive system unharmed and undigested until they reach the gut and meet their probiotic friends.

In what ways does this prebiotic superstrength and lack of digestibility help our health? The strong-guy prebiotic fibers work hard to strengthen our immune system, support our bones by increasing our body’s ability to absorb calcium and magnesium, and lower our risk of weight gain. In addition, prebiotics also act as food for their probiotic friends when they travel to meet them in the gut. They give probiotics energy to stay alive, working, and healthy, promoting gut health. Pretty cool right?

The Prebiotic & Probiotic Connection

Let’s dig a little deeper into this gut-healthy friendship—the prebiotic and probiotic connection. While prebiotics made their way to the popular health scene long after probiotics did, it doesn’t mean the two haven’t always had a beneficial connection.

Prebiotics work together with probiotics to fight for a balance of healthy bacteria in the gut. Here’s how it works: Prebiotics travel undigested through the digestive system. Then the prebiotic fiber is digested in the gut by the probiotics - this process is called “fermentation”.

Probiotics rely on prebiotics for fuel to do their jobs the best they can. The probiotics get the energy they need to enhance nutrient absorption, aid in digestion, kill off bad bacteria that can make us sick, and keep us healthy.

The Benefits of Daily Prebiotics & Probiotics

So, can you take prebiotics and probiotics together? Yep, and you should! You will improve the effectiveness of prebiotics by taking them along with probiotics and vice versa.

There are many proven and potential health benefits to eating foods rich in prebiotics and probiotics. And getting both probiotics and prebiotics in your diet daily does wonders for your gut health, diet, and healthy lifestyle.

Daily prebiotics and probiotics:

  • Promote a happy and healthy balanced gut

  • Help fight inflammation

  • Reduce the risk of cancer

  • Increase energy levels

  • Improve quality of sleep

  • Help you properly absorb nutrients

  • Maintain healthy hormone levels

  • Reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease

  • Help prevent hair loss

  • Help manage stress

  • And prebiotics can help you lose weight too!

Prebiotic Supplements or Prebiotic Foods: Which Is Better?

While there are both prebiotic foods and many prebiotic supplements out there now, it might be confusing knowing what is right for you.

There is no right or wrong way to get prebiotics into your system daily. One rule we do have for prebiotics is this—just like with anything, be mindful about the quality and dosage of the prebiotics you consume. Prebiotic inulin is a type of FODMAP - so overdoing it with prebiotics could lead to adverse effects like bloating, IBS, diarrhea, or constipation.

My 5 Favorite Prebiotic Fiber Snacks

Many of the prebiotic foods you should eat are actually found in more common places than you might think. Yes, garlic is just one. We have a list of the best prebiotic foods you should eat daily so you can support a healthy gut and happy lifestyle:

1. Dark Chocolate

Not only is dark chocolate insanely delicious, but it’s also one of the highest quality prebiotics. Healthy 70% cocoa dark chocolate that is raw, unsweetened, and low in sugar is an anti-inflammatory snack that has some amazing effects on the body when eaten once a day. The microbes in our gut love to munch on dark chocolate’s prebiotic fibers for energy.

2. Bananas

Bananas are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber and when eaten unripe (when their skin is a bit green) are high in resistant starch and inulin, also known as prebiotics. Bananas’ prebiotics fuel the healthy bacteria in our gut as well as reduce uncomfortable belly bloat.

3. Onions

Onions, shallots, and spring onions are all a great source of high-quality prebiotics. These gut-friendly vegetables are also high in vitamins, minerals, and are loaded with antioxidants. Plus, they can be incorporated into your diet in tons of different ways—on a salad, in your favorite sandwich, or grilled to go along with tonight’s dinner.

4. Flaxseeds

Flaxseeds have loads of prebiotic fiber and antioxidants. The fiber in this superfood promotes regular bowel movements, reduces the amount of unhealthy fat your body absorbs, and can lower bad cholesterol. Add a spoonful to your oatmeal, yogurt, or morning smoothie.

5. Jerusalem Artichoke

The Jerusalem artichoke, or the “earth apple”, is filled with inulin soluble fiber. This vegetable helps with immune system strength, metabolism, and contributes to the increase of good bacteria in the gut. Plus, its deliciousness can be enjoyed raw or cooked. Cook it up with some of your favorite herbs and spices, slice it up and stick it in the oven like baked chips, or chop the raw “earth apple” up and toss it on a salad.

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