You’ve likely heard about probiotics, and you may already know they’re super important for your digestive system and gut health. But have you also heard about prebiotics? If you haven’t, and you’d like to learn more about natural prebiotics, then you’ve come to the right place.
Before digging into the list of prebiotic-rich fruits, vegetables, and carbs, let’s discuss exactly what probiotics and prebiotics are, and why they’re so crucial to your health.
What are Probiotics and Prebiotics?
If you haven’t gotten on the probiotic train, here’s a quick rundown:
Probiotics are naturally occurring bacteria found in the human gut. They help destroy the bad bacteria found in your gut, and they can help ease digestive discomfort when you eat certain foods. Additionally, probiotics can help boost your immune system and rid your body of pathogens. They are found in a variety of foods, particularly fermented dairy products.1
Prebiotics provide much-needed fuel for probiotics. By feeding on PREbiotics, PRObiotics are better able to battle the bad bacteria living in your gut.
There is some debate about natural prebiotics in the scientific community. The discussion among researchers centers mostly around what’s considered a prebiotic. When first recognized in 1995 by Glen Gibson and Marcel Roberfroid, prebiotics were defined as a “non-digestible ingredient in food that benefits its host by stimulating growth and/or activity of good bacteria in the colon.”
This stimulation of the good flora in the gut was believed to benefit overall health as well as gut health.
Over the years, the list of recognized prebiotic foods has changed a bit, as research helps narrow down which foods contain the most beneficial, natural prebiotics.2
Now that you know the basics about natural prebiotics and their importance to your gut health, let’s get right into the prebiotics food list…
10 Prebiotic Foods to Incorporate Natural Prebiotics into Your Diet
Here’s an important note: If you have allergies to any of these natural prebiotics foods, then you should clearly avoid them. If you are concerned about a lack of prebiotic foods in your diet, then talk with your doctor about your options to increase your prebiotic intake.
Like many other vegetables on this list, asparagus contains an abundant amount of natural prebiotics. In fact, asparagus contains one of the most well-known prebiotics, known as oligosaccharides. This kind of prebiotic fiber is linked to better gut health, as well as improved cardiovascular function.3
Apples are another ideal choice on this list of prebiotic foods. They’re not just tasty – they’re also very versatile. They can be eaten alone, in hot cereal, in salads, with dips, with crackers, with cheese, and so much more. Pectin, a naturally occurring substance found in the cells of apples, is another kind of oligosaccharide that offers major prebiotic benefits.4
Studies have shown that a prebiotic fiber known as inulin works as a prebiotic, increasing the number of good bacteria in the gut.5 And artichokes are rich in inulin. Artichoke leaves are delicious with a dressing, as a compliment to a dip, or on their own. You can also eat the heart of the artichoke, or use it in other recipes.
Another delicious fruit on this list of prebiotic foods is the banana. They’re an easy and convenient snack to incorporate into your diet, even if you’re on the go. Plus, eating more prebiotic-rich bananas may even help to ease bloating.6
This is another pretty versatile food on the list. Cabbage can be consumed raw, or cooked in various foods, including soups. To reap the most prebiotic benefits from this vegetable, be sure not to overcook it. Research suggests that limiting cooking time helps cabbage maintain more of its gut-friendly, natural prebiotics.7
Garlic has great prebiotic benefits. It is another food that is versatile, and it goes well with many different types of cuisines. Studies also suggest that garlic has major cardiovascular benefits and antimicrobial properties, as it can help keep “bad” bacteria at bay.8
When it comes to natural prebiotic foods, onions are an excellent choice. You can enjoy onions raw or cooked, and they’re a great addition to many recipes, sandwiches, salads, and sauces. Like artichokes, onions are high in inulin fiber, yielding powerful prebiotic benefits.10
Legumes are natural prebiotics. Beans are a well-known type of legume, as are peas. Legumes can help support the probiotics in your gut – so try to get a wide variety of legumes into your diet.11
Wheat bran is another great prebiotic food that benefits your gut flora.12 The easiest way to incorporate bran into your diet is through healthy bran cereal, as well as whole-wheat bread made with wheat bran. You can also sprinkle wheat bran flakes onto yogurt, hot cereals, and fresh fruit.
Leeks are a bit less common than some of the other prebiotic foods in this list, but they are known to aid in the growth of good gut flora. Leeks are rich in beneficial prebiotics, and they can be used similarly to onions in a variety of recipes.13
Eat Natural Prebiotics and Probiotics for Gut Health
Prebiotics can help the probiotics in your gut flourish and thrive, leading to better gut health. Many of these foods are also high in fiber – and they’re even more beneficial for your digestive system.
Taking care of your gut health is one crucial part of looking after your overall health. So be sure to get as many of these natural prebiotics into your diet as you can. The fruits, vegetables, and healthy carbs on this list all deliver beneficial vitamins and nutrients that are important to your health.
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