The Biting Truth share their favourite naturally prebiotic rich foods and how to include them in your diet – many you may already be eating on a regular basis!
What are prebiotics?
You may be well across probiotics, the good bacteria in your gut and fermented foods such as MOJO Kombucha which maintains strong immunity and fights inflammation among many other functions, but you may be thinking, what on earth are prebiotics?
Prebiotics are a type of fibre that are strong enough to withstand our stomach acid and stay intact until they reach our guts. Once they’ve reached the gut, prebiotics essentially serve as food for our good gut bacteria or probiotics. Just like we need food to fuel our body or plants need food to grow, your healthy bacteria need to be fuelled adequately to do their wonderful work. Probiotics ingest prebiotics to use as food.
How to do prebiotics help keep us healthy?
Prebiotics are essential to fuel your good gut bacteria to allow them to thrive and also maintain a balance between the ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ bacteria in your gut. When your probiotics eat the prebiotics, nutrients are produced, which then work to keep your digestive system and body healthy. Having strong, well-fuelled probiotics allows the gut to carry out its functions such as regulating your immune system, inflammation and metabolic health.
Some of the nutrients produced when the probiotics digest prebiotics are short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) such as butyrate and acetate. SCFAs have potent anti-inflammatory properties and may be involved in reducing the risk of a number of chronic diseases, such as colon cancer.
10 Foods rich in prebiotics and how to include them in your diet
You don’t need to head to the health food store and blow your budget to be able to incorporate prebiotics into your diet. Fortunately, there are many foods which are naturally rich in prebiotics – many of which you may already be eating on a regular basis!
1. Leeks are rich in a prebiotic fibre called inulin, which is helpful for maintaining digestive health, keeping you fuller for longer and even reducing cholesterol re-absorption. Inulin also supports your immune system, your body’s blood sugar control and bowels.
Including leeks in your diet: leeks are a great addition to soups and stir fry’s. Try out a potato and leek soup for a warming Winter dinner!
2. Garlic is high in inulin which has many positive effects on your gut health. Garlic also contains a prebiotic called fructooligosaccharide (a.k.a FOS), which helps fuel the growth of a ‘healthy’ gut bacteria called Bifidobacteria. While FOS helps build the gut bacteria, it also helps with the breakdown of fat and boosts your immune system.
Including garlic in your diet: garlic is the perfect base to many savoury meals and adds a powerful flavour booster.
3. Onions have similar prebiotics as garlic, containing inulin and FOS which allow your ‘healthy’ bacteria to thrive, helping to maintain your digestive and metabolic health and reduce inflammation in your colon.
Including onions in your diet: onions are also an easy, tasty base to many dishes including roast vegetables, spaghetti bolognese, soups or stir fries.
4. Asparagus also contains the powerhouse prebiotic inulin, working to support your ‘healthy’ gut bacteria as mentioned above. The inulin in asparagus also works together with the antioxidants in asparagus as an anti-inflammatory.
Including asparagus in your diet: asparagus can be enjoyed as a side dish to accompany a piece of grilled chicken or salmon or can even boiled and added to a salad.
5. Chickpeas contain a prebiotic fibre called resistant starch. Resistant starch travels to your large intestine, where your ‘good’ bacteria digest it, promoting colon health, helping to control blood sugar levels and lowering blood cholesterol.
Including chickpeas in your diet: chickpeas are a great protein alternative in salads, or even as a base for vegetable patties, stew or stir fry. Roasted chickpeas also make a fantastic on-the-go snack which can be easily made up at home ahead of a busy week.
6. Oats contain a prebiotic fibre called beta-glucan which is linked to ‘healthy’ gut bacteria, reduced LDL (a.k.a ‘bad’) cholesterol, blood sugar control and reduced cancer risk. Beta-glucan also slows digestion in your body, which means you feel full for longer. Oats also contain the gut-friendly resistant starch as mentioned above.
Including oats in your diet: oats can be a great base to many different dishes, including a porridge, muesli or even a smoothie. Oats can also be used in baking such as loaves and biscuits, like our coconut muesli cookies.
7. Jerusalem Artichokes are another food rich in inulin also helping maintain your digestive health, immune system, cholesterol and blood sugar levels and reduce inflammation in your body.
Including Jerusalem artichokes in your diet: Jerusalem artichokes can be roasted with garlic to make a delicious side dish or even baked alongside chicken. This is also another great vegetable which can be used as a soup base.
8. Bananas: contains small amounts of inulin. Unripe bananas are particularly high in resistant starch which just like in oats, works like a prebiotic in the gut to feed your good bacteria and keep your colon healthy.
Including bananas in your diet: bananas are a versatile fruit which can be a delicious base to a fruit smoothie or even the perfect topping on your porridge in the mornings to keep you feeling full and energetic.
9. Apples are rich in a prebiotic called pectin, which when digested, also produces SCFAs (especially butyrate). These work to reduce the ‘unhealthy’ bacteria in your gut and fuel the ‘healthy’ bacteria. The pectin in apples also works with other nutrients (like polyphenols) to maintain healthy digestion, metabolism and cholesterol levels.
Including apples in your diet: apples are an easy one to include as a snack throughout the day. It can be easily paired with some Greek yoghurt and muesli for a mid-morning snack. You can even use apples in your baking, like our cinnamon and apple muffins.
10. Walnuts are high in prebiotics which contribute to thriving ‘healthy’ gut colonies. Eating walnuts promotes the growth of a probiotic called lactobacillus, which helps outnumber the ‘unhealthy’ gut bacteria. Research also suggests that regular consumption of walnuts can allow gut bacteria to grow that reduce inflammation in the colon.
Including walnuts in your diet: walnuts are a great snack on their own, or even as a topping on your yoghurt or porridge. Walnuts also make great toppings to savoury dishes like salads, such as in our bean, walnut and fig salad.
The Bottom Line
Probiotics are the good bacteria that live in your gut, and whilst these are essential to good gut health, prebiotics are the essential food for those healthy bacteria. It’s important to feed your gut plenty of prebiotics to allow your good gut bacteria to thrive and maintain your health. Including a variety of prebiotic foods in your diet will give you the best chance of experiencing the positive health benefits of prebiotics.
– Anna and Alex, The Biting Truth
Anna and Alex are a pair of no-nonsense dietitians who founded The Biting Truth because they believed people deserve the truth when it comes to nutrition. There are plenty of fads in the world: eat this, don’t eat that. The truth is, you can eat ALL kinds of foods and still be healthy and fit. They use simple science to empower individuals to make better food and health choices. They are scientists and skeptics who love exposing nutritional myths and helping people separate science from pseudoscience.
They love educating people about nutrition and work with a range of businesses and organisations to do so! To read more about their services, click here.