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What are Prebiotics? 21 Natural Prebiotics Foods

Prebiotics are classified as the non-digestible food ingredients that probiotics can feed off. They are used in the gut to increase populations of healthy bacteria, aid digestion and enhance the production of valuable vitamins.

What are prebiotics?

Good bacteria play a significant role in regulating your immune system, inhibiting the growth of pathogens (disease-causing bacteria) and digesting food. Galactooligosaccharides (GOS) are the most advanced form of prebiotics which belong to a group of particular nutrient fibres that feed and encourage the growth of good bacteria in the gut.

Sources of prebiotics

The major source of prebiotics is dietary fibre. They occur naturally in fruits and vegetables, but you can also take them as nutritional supplements.

While all prebiotics are fibres, not all fibres are prebiotics. The common forms of dietary fibre present in most plant-based foods and grains are less selectively fermented by the bacteria in the gut and lack some of the health benefits showed by prebiotics. However, they are still of benefit to our health and their consumption is to be encouraged as they help maintain regular toilet habits as well as promote the health of the gut itself.

21 Natural Prebiotics Foods

  1. Bananas
  2. Raw Leeks
  3. Raw Onions
  4. Jerusalem Artichokes
  5. Raw Garlic Cloves
  6. Chicory Root Powder
  7. Cooked Onions
  8. Raw Asparagus
  9. Whole Wheat Flour
  10. Dandelion greens
  11. Barley
  12. Whole Oats
  13. Apples
  14. Konjac root, also known as elephant yam
  15. Cocoa bean
  16. Burdock root
  17. Flaxseeds
  18. Yacon Root
  19. Jicama root
  20. Wheat bran is the outer layer of the whole wheat grain
  21. Seaweed (marine algae) is rarely eaten. However, it is a very potent prebiotic food.

It is possible to find probiotics in some everyday foods, including onions, garlic, leeks, Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus and bananas. However, in order to experience any meaningful health benefits from these sources, you would have to consume large portions.

Prebiotic supplements

Prebiotic supplements can be taken regularly to help increase and drive the growth of good bacteria in your gut. Prebiotic supplements contain fermentable fibre, which provides food for beneficial bacteria, such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria.

Prebiotic supplements differ from probiotic supplements in that they are not live bacteria, are highly stable and are unaffected by heat and acidity and reach your gut intact. It’s important to note that not all prebiotics are the same and some are more targeted in the type of bacteria they feed.

Benefits of taking prebiotics

One of the biggest advantages of prebiotic supplements is that they are highly stable, being unaffected either by temperature or long-term storage. Prebiotics are also resistant to the body’s enzymes and gastric acids, so they are not destroyed, digested, or absorbed as they travel through your digestive system, unlike many probiotics. Prebiotics reach the colon intact and unaltered.

They can be added to almost every type of food, drink, or supplement without compromising their effectiveness.

  1. Are there any side-effects using prebiotics?

    Large amounts of prebiotic fibre provide an abundance of food for a range of gut bacteria and, when utilised, this can cause an excess of gas in the intestine. The most common side-effects of prebiotics are abdominal bloating and discomfort occurring when large doses are consumed.
    If you find you are experiencing abdominal discomfort and bloating, reduce the dose of prebiotics you are consuming. If you are taking a supplement, it’s important to adhere to the recommended dosages of any product. More is not always better.

  2. Can you take prebiotics and probiotics at the same time?

    Yes, you can take prebiotics and probiotics at the same time. By taking probiotics, you are adding live bacteria into your gut. By also taking a prebiotic, you are encouraging the good gut bacteria already in your gut to grow, as well as encouraging the growth of live bacteria added to your gut through the consumption of probiotics.

  3. What prebiotics do?

    Prebiotics can be found in carbohydrates and fruit and vegetables and increase the friendly bacteria in your gut, without feeding bad microorganisms or pathogens.
    Prebiotics can be added to any food as they are resistant to heat, oxygen, stomach acids and enzymes. When ingested, they reach the lower gut intact and selectively nourish the good bacteria once there.

  4. What are prebiotics?

    Prebiotics are non-living, non-digestible fibres that work in your gut, feeding the good gut bacteria such as bifidobacteria and lactobacilli and encourage them to grow.

  5. Should I take prebiotics or probiotics?

    Using prebiotics and probiotics together is called microbiome therapy. You don’t need to take a prebiotic for probiotics to work, but taking them might make your probiotics more effective.

  6. Do prebiotics help you lose weight?

    Prebiotics are better than probiotics in weight loss and burning abdominal fat, according to researchers. Prebiotic fiber may help prevent intestinal fat absorption and could be an effective weight loss tool.

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