This article tackles two questions:
- What Are Prebiotics?
- What Foods Provide Them?
You've most likely heard of probiotics. However, you may very well have not have heard of prebiotics. Prebiotics are non-digestible carbohydrates that feed the good bacteria in your gut.
Prebiotic carbohydrates provide several benefits including:
- Anti-inflammatory Effects
- Improved Immunity
- Digestive Health
Since prebiotics help probiotics flourish, it's a good idea to include plenty of them in your diet. As we covered in other digestive health related articles, the nutrition within high quality foods like grass-fed whey can not be fully realized without a high functioning digestive system.
In this article, we'll tell you all about prebiotics and give you a helpful prebiotics food list too. Our high-level food list will help you better manage your diet and ensure that your body is getting the nutrients it needs.
What Are Prebiotics?
Initially, any fiber responsible for fueling bacteria in the colon was considered a prebiotic. Now, the medical industry considers prebiotics to be any compound used by microorganisms (aka probiotics) to improve health.
While many prebiotic substrates aren't digestible (just like fiber), not all fiber forms can be classified as prebiotic. To be classified as a prebiotic, the substrate needs to help develop beneficial gut bacteria.
By consuming more prebiotic-foods, your gut bacteria will produce nutrients for your colon cells and help you achieve a healthier digestive system. Some of these nutrients include short-chain fatty acids like propionate, acetate, and butyrate.
Let's go over the top prebiotic foods that you should know about below.
1. Are Dandelion Greens a Prebiotic?
Dandelion greens are a great source of fiber, and you can use them in your salads. They contain four grams of fiber per 100-gram serving. A high portion of this fiber comes from inulin.
This inulin fiber can help boost the immune system, increase friendly bacteria in the gut, and reduce constipation.
Dandelion greens are also known to have anti-cancer, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, and cholesterol-lowering properties. They can even help regulate blood sugar .
2. Is Garlic a Prebiotic?
Garlic is an incredibly delicious herb that's also linked to many different health benefits. Around eleven percent of garlic's fiber content comes from inulin. Six percent of its fiber content comes from a naturally occurring prebiotic known as fructooligosaccharides (FOS) .
Garlic promotes the growth of beneficial Bifidobacteria in the gut, which makes it an excellent prebiotic. It also stops harmful bacteria from developing.
Garlic extract can also be useful for lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease. Studies show garlic extract to have antimicrobial, anticancer, and antioxidant characteristics .
It also might provide benefits against asthma.
3. Are Leeks Considered a Prebiotic?
Leeks come from the same family as garlic and onions and they offer similar health benefits. These vegetables contain up to sixteen percent inulin fiber. Thanks to their high inulin content, leeks help healthy gut bacteria and assist in the breakdown of fat.
Leeks are also able to support the body’s response to oxidative stress because they're high in flavonoids. Also, leeks provide benefits for bones and the heart because they contain a high amount of vitamin K.
4. Are Bananas a Prebiotic?
Bananas are extremely popular fruits. They're delicious and high in fiber, minerals, and vitamins. They also contain small amounts of inulin.
A green banana is also going to be high in resistant starch, which has prebiotic effects.
5. Are Oats a Prebiotic?
Whole oats are a healthy grain that comes with prebiotic benefits. They come with a high concentration of beta-glucan fiber. Beta-glucan from oats has been associated with reduced cancer risk, better blood sugar control, lower LDL cholesterol, and healthy gut bacteria.
Also, whole oats have the ability to help control appetite and slow digestion.
Oats can even provide you with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant protection thanks to their phenolic acid content. And they can be part of a nutritious breakfast.
Learn More: Oats Explained in Detail
6. Is Konjac Root a Prebiotic?
Also known as elephant yam, konjac root is a tuber that's usually used as a dietary supplement for its health benefits.
This tuber contains a high amount of glucomannan fiber which is a highly viscous dietary fiber. When you eat konjac root, you'll be promoting the development of beneficial bacteria in the colon, boosting your immune system, and relieving constipation.
Glucomannan can help you with weight loss and lowering blood cholesterol. It can also improve carbohydrate metabolism.
You can find konjac root in foods like shirataki noodles. You can also take glucomannan supplements if you want.
7. Is Burdock Root a Prebiotic?
Burdock root is commonly consumed in Japan and it has proven health benefits. Burdock root contains around four grams of fiber per 100-gram serving. The majority of that fiber is from FOS and inulin.
FOS and inulin from burdock root have prebiotic properties that can stop the development of harmful bacteria in the intestines. They can also improve immune function and promote bowel movements.
Also, burdock root has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and blood sugar lowering properties.
8. Is Yacon Root a Prebiotic?
Yacon root is rich in fiber and it's very similar to sweet potatoes. It's especially rich in prebiotic FOS and inulin.
The inulin that's in yacon has the ability to regulate blood fats, improve mineral absorption, enhance the immune system, reduce constipation, and improve gut bacteria. Yacon also has antioxidant properties thanks to its phenolic compounds.
9. Is Chicory Root a Prebiotic?
Chicory is popular thanks to the fact that it tastes like coffee. It is also an excellent source of prebiotics. A little less than half of chicory root fiber comes from the prebiotic fiber inulin.
The inulin that's in chicory root feeds the gut bacteria, helps relieve constipation, and improves digestion. It can also improve fat digestion by helping to increase the production of bile.
Also, chicory root is high in antioxidant compounds that keep the liver safe from oxidative damage.
10. Is Jerusalem Artichoke a Prebiotic?
Also known as the "earth apple," the Jerusalem artichoke is a species of sunflower that's native to central North America. It provides around two grams of dietary fiber per 100 grams. A significant percentage of that fiber comes from inulin.
Jerusalem artichokes have the ability to increase the helpful bacteria in the colon even better than chicory root. It can also boost the immune system and stop a variety of metabolic disorders.
The Jerusalem artichoke is also high in potassium and thiamine. These vitamins can promote proper muscle function and improve your nervous system.
11. Is Onions a Prebiotic?
Onions are a versatile and delicious vegetable that are linked to a variety of health benefits. Similar to leeks and garlic, inulin makes up ten percent of the total fiber content of onions. FOS makes up around five percent.
FOS is able to help the immune system by increasing nitric oxide production in cells. It can also assist with breaking down fat and strengthen gut flora.
Onions also have anticancer and antioxidant properties thanks to them being rich in the flavonoid quercetin. Also, onions may be able to help the cardiovascular system and provide antibiotic effects.
12. Is Asparagus a Prebiotic?
Asparagus is a popular vegetable that's also an excellent source for prebiotics. It has the ability to promote beneficial bacteria in the gut. It's also been linked to the prevention of certain cancers.
The combinations of antioxidants and fiber in this vegetable also seem to mean that you get anti-inflammatory benefits too.
The inulin content of asparagus is around two grams of 100-gram serving. A serving also contains around two grams of protein.
13. Is Barley a Prebiotic?
Barley is a kind of cereal grain that's usually used to make beer. It contains around five grams of beta-glucan per 100-gram serving. The prebiotic fiber beta-glucan is able to promote the development of healthy bacteria in the digestive tract.
The beta-glucan that's found in barley has the ability to lower total and LDL cholesterol. It also might be able to help you lower your blood sugar levels.
Even more, barley is high in selenium. Selenium helps you with thyroid function. It can also improve your immune system and provide you with antioxidant benefits.
14. Are Apples a Prebiotic?
Apples are a tasty fruit with plenty of fiber. About half of their fiber content is pectin.
The pectin that comes from apples has prebiotic benefits.
First off, pectin can increase the amount of butyrate in your body. Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid that feeds the beneficial gut bacteria. It also reduces the amount of harmful bacteria in the gut.
Furthermore, apples are also rich in polyphenol antioxidants. When pectin and polyphenols are combined, they are able to improve fat metabolism and digestive health. They can also reduce the risk of various cancers and lower levels of LDL cholesterol.
Apples also have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
15. Is Cocoa a Prebiotic?
As the basis of chocolate, cocoa beans are both delicious and extremely healthy. When cocoa beans are broken down by the colon, they produce nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is able to increase blood flow throughout the body.
Cocoa is also a great source of flavonols. The flavonol in cocoa has strong prebiotic benefits related to the development of friendly gut bacteria. It can also be beneficial for the heart.
16. Are Flaxseeds a Prebiotic?
Flaxseeds are very healthy and they're a great source of prebiotics. The fiber content in flaxseeds is around thirty percent soluble fiber from mucilage gums. It's also around seventy percent insoluble fiber from lignin and cellulose.
The fiber in flaxseeds reduces the amount of dietary fat you absorb and digest. It also promotes regular bowel movements and friendly gut bacteria.
Because of how much phenolic antioxidants they contain, flaxseeds also have antioxidant and anti-cancer properties. They can also help regulate blood sugar levels.
17. Is Wheat Bran a Prebiotic?
Wheat bran is the outer layer of the whole wheat grain. It's a good source of prebiotics. Wheat bran contains a certain type of fiber that's made of arabinoxylan oligosaccharides (AXOS).
AXOS fiber makes up around 65 percent of wheat bran's fiber content. It's also been shown to increase the production of Bifidobacteria in the gut .
Wheat bran can even reduce digestive problems such as abdominal pain, cramping, and flatulence. Grains that are high in AXOS also have anti-cancer and antioxidant effects.
18. Is Seaweed a Prebiotic?
Seaweed (marine algae) isn't usually eaten. However, it's a very strong prebiotic food. Around half of the fiber content in seaweed comes from fiber that's water-soluble.
The fiber in seaweed might be able to enhance the development of healthy gut bacteria. It can also reduce the risk of colon cancer, boost immune function, and stop the growth of disease-causing bacteria.
Seaweed is also high in antioxidants that have been linked to the prevention of strokes and heart attacks.
Seaweed also contains tyrosine and iodine, which support thyroid function. The thyroid gland releases hormones that help control the repair and growth of damaged cells in the body.
Marine algae are also a good source of minerals and vitamins.
19. Is Jicama Root a Prebiotic?
Jicama root is high in fiber and low in calories. It also contains the prebiotic fiber inulin.
This plant helps lower blood sugar levels, enhance insulin sensitivity, and improve digestive health. Also, it's high in vitamin C which helps the immune system to fight illnesses.
This plant also offers a good balance of all of the essential amino acids.
20. Are Legumes a Prebiotic?
Yes, legumes represent one of the most sustainable sources of both plant-based protein and prebiotics. Legumes include but are not limited to the following -
Using This Prebiotic Foods List to Improve Your Diet
Hopefully, after reading the above article, you now have a better idea of what prebiotics are and what are the best prebiotic foods. This prebiotic foods list is going to help you adjust your diet so that you can more effectively nourish the healthy bacteria in your gut while fending off the harmful bacteria.
Living a healthy lifestyle starts with what you eat. By eating foods that are healthy and not processed, you'll be able to feel better and look better.