What Are Prebiotics and How Can We Get Them In Our Diet?

What Are Prebiotics and How Can We Get Them In Our Diet?

What Are Prebiotics and How Can We Get Them In Our Diet?

Prebiotics are dietary fibre that feed the bacteria in our gut microbiome. This blog post will explore the different types of prebiotics, the best dietary sources of prebiotics and the potential health benefits of prebiotics.

Prebiotic fibres are not broken down in digestion, so they make it all the way to your colon, where they metabolise and ferment in order to survive. This process creates a variety of byproducts which can help support our health, such as short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which provide energy to cells, help support our immune system and reduce inflammation. Different microorganisms use different prebiotics, so not every prebiotic gives you the same effect.

 

Benefits of prebiotics

Research into our gut microbiome is ongoing so it is likely that we don’t yet know all the benefits of prebiotics, but a few things that we do know are that they…

 

  • Help regulate bowel movements
  • Produce neurotransmitters that help your gut and brain trigger mood changes and other processes
  • Stimulate the body to produce appetite and fullness hormones
  • Support the immune system and the body’s anti-inflammatory response
  • Increase production of good bacteria and decrease bad bacteria
  • Help your bones absorb calcium and phosphorus which can improve bone density

 

Types of prebiotics

Prebiotic foods are usually high in certain types of fibre known as fermentable soluble fibre. The three most common are:

 

Resistant starches

Like fibre, resistant starches are not digested and end up as a food source for microorganisms in your gut. When resistant starches are broken down, they produce a SCFA called butyrate which helps with water and electrolyte absorption, supports immune system function and is anti-inflammatory.

 

Inulin

Inulin is a prebiotic fibre that can help you feel fuller for longer, helping us with overeating and supporting regular and formed bowel movements. It can also help lower ‘bad’ cholesterol, stabilise blood sugar and support the growth and maintenance of good bacterial populations in your gut.

 

Pectin

Pectin is contained in a lot of fruits, and due to its gel-like consistency, is often used in food production to create jams and jellies. It has antioxidant properties, may help enhance the cells in your intestinal lining and improve the diversity of microoganisms in your gut.

 

Sources of prebiotics

Sources of prebiotics are all plants! So if you consume a balanced diet full of fruit and vegetables, you’re probably eating a lot of prebiotics already. 

Here are 7 great sources and a bit about why they’re so good for you:

 

  1.         Chicory root
  • Approximately 68% of chicory root fibre comes from the prebiotic fibre inulin which improves digestion, gut transit and helps control blood glucose levels

 

  1.             Dandelion greens
  • They are packed with fibre including inulin, which helps nourish your gut microbiota

 

  1.             Garlic
  • Garlic promotes the growth of Bifidobacterium, and prevents pathogenic bacteria growing
  • It has anti-tumour properties and helps to lower blood glucose and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease

 

  1.             Onion
  • They are rich in inulin and fructo-oligosaccharides, which help support your immune system and have antioxidant properties

 

  1.             Bananas
  • Unripe, slightly green bananas have plenty of resistant starch, which has prebiotic effects

 

  1.             Apples
  • These are rich in pectin, a soluble fibre, that can promote a healthy gut as it increases the production of SCFAs

 

  1.             Flaxseeds
  • These are rich in prebiotics, encourage regular bowel movements and contain phenolic antioxidants

 

Top Tip: The best way to improve your consumption of prebiotics is to build up slowly – prebiotics create gas in your gut so eating too many can create uncomfortable symptoms! Gradual introduction will help prevent this and improve your tolerance over time.

 

Summary of prebiotics

Prebiotics have a range of different health benefits and our knowledge of these is ever-growing. A healthy and balanced diet should include a range of plant sources, and naturally this would include an abundance of prebiotics without you even knowing it! However, if you want to give your gut microbiome a little extra support, focus on increasing your intake of the foods above. Build up slowly, prioritise a diet-first approach before considering supplements and focus on diversity of foods consumed.

 

 

If you’re looking to optimise your nutrition, transform your health and elevate your quality of life, please get in contact via Consultations or book a FREE 15-minute call and let’s chat about how I can help.  

 

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