Prebiotics: What Are They & How Can You Get Some?
Prebiotics are a type of non-digestible carbohydrate found in certain foods, which promote the growth and activity of good bacteria in the gut. As they’re able to arrive relatively unchanged in the large bowel, they become a good source of fuel for good bacteria living there.
Prebiotic foods are high in special types of fibre that support digestive health. They promote the increase of friendly bacteria in the gut, help with various digestive problems and even boost your immune system. Prebiotic foods have also been shown to improve metabolic health and even help prevent certain diseases.
And the best part? It’s relatively simple to incorporate prebiotic foods into your diet.
Below we’ve compiled a list of some prebiotic foods that most of us have in our pantries!
11% of garlic's fibre comes from inulin and 6% from a sweet, naturally occurring prebiotic called fructooligosaccharides (FOS).
Garlic promotes the growth of beneficial Bifidobacteria in the gut, while also preventing disease-promoting bacteria from growing.
It’s effective for reducing the risk of heart disease and has shown antioxidant, anti-cancer and antimicrobial effects, as well as benefits against asthma.
Similarly to garlic, inulin accounts for 10% of the total fibre content, and the prebiotic fructooligosaccharides (FOS) makes up 6%.
FOS strengthens gut flora, assists in the breakdown of fats and boosts the immune system by increasing nitric oxide production in cells.
Onions are also rich in the flavonoid quercetin, giving it antioxidant and anticancer properties.
The also boast antibiotic properties and may provide benefits for the cardiovascular system.
Bananas are a fruit bowl must-have and are also super rich in vitamins, minerals and fibre.
Bananas contain small amounts of inulin, and unripened bananas are also high in resistant starch, which has prebiotic effects. The prebiotic fibre in bananas has been linked to increased healthy gut bacteria and can reduce bloating.
Whole oats contain large amounts of beta-glucan fibre, as well as some resistant starch.
It has also been shown to slow digestion and help control appetite - so great for those who get hungry a little too quickly!
Oats also offer antioxidant and anti-inflammatory protection due to their phenolic acid content.
Apple's total fibre content contains approximately 50% pectin, which has prebiotic benefits.
Pectin increases butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid that feeds the beneficial gut bacteria and decreases the population of harmful bacteria
Apples are also high in polyphenol antioxidants.
Combined, polyphenols and pectin have been linked to improved digestive health and fat metabolism, decreased levels of LDL cholesterol and a reduced risk of various cancers
Apples also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties
Need more sources?
Prebiotic compounds are commonly found in plant products, including watermelon, nectarines, white peaches, Jerusalem artichokes, snow pea and green peas.
They are also plentiful in wholegrain foods, for example, couscous, pasta, rye bread and barley; legumes including chickpeas, red kidney beans, lentils and nuts and seeds.
Some of the fibre content of these foods may be altered during cooking, so try to consume them raw rather than cooked. You should avoid juicing the products, as you may lose some fibre containing the prebiotics.