June 30, 2022
  • June 30, 2022

7 Prebiotic Foods and How They Can Help Your Gut

By on August 30, 2021 0 74 Views

Gut health basics

When it comes to disease prevention and overall wellness, it’s a good idea to pay attention to the health of your gut microbiome.

That’s the billions of teeming bacteria and other organisms found in your intestines that help digest your food and regulate your immune system.

Journal of Translational Immunology

Cell

Postgrad Medical Journal,

Brain, Behaviour and Immunity.

What are prebiotics?

Frontiers in Microbiology

Where do prebiotics come from?

“Prebiotics are broken into five known categories based on their structural characteristics and the byproducts they produce,” explains registered dietitian nutritionist Grace Clark-Hibbs, owner of Nutrition with Grace.

Foods

“Consuming a range of prebiotics is important in order to appeal to a wider variety of organisms and to reap the most benefits,” Clark-Hibbs says.

How do prebiotics affect the gut?

The main benefit that prebiotics offer to gut health is the nutrients they produce after they are metabolized.

“When prebiotics are metabolized by the microorganisms in your gut, they produce short-chain fatty acids as a byproduct, which provide a variety of benefits throughout the body,” explains Clark-Hibbs.

Nutrients

“Prebiotics can enhance absorption of nutrients, in particular minerals like calcium, optimize digestion and metabolism, and reverse damage to the gut environment due to prolonged antibiotic use,” says registered dietitian nutritionist Ilene Cohen, of PranaSpirit Nutrition & Wellness.

Benefits of eating prebiotic foods

Adding more prebiotic foods to your diet may benefit more than just your gut.

In addition, diets rich in fiber can reduce the risk of many chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, she notes.

And the benefits don’t come from fiber alone. Metabolizing prebiotics also produces short-chain fatty acids that can impact the entire body.

“These fatty acids are small enough to squeeze through the cells that make up your intestines and enter the bloodstream where they are able to provide health benefits to your immune system, mood, memory, and reduce overall inflammation,” Clark-Hibbs says.

How much prebiotic food do we need each day?

It is apparent that eating more prebiotic-rich food can benefit health, but how much is enough?

“Currently, there is no official ‘adequate intake’ or ‘recommended daily allowance’, but the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) recommends at least 3 grams of prebiotics per day,” explains Clark-Hibbs.

Although it can be hard to know exactly how much prebiotic fiber you take in each day, eating more fiber as a whole can be a good place to start.

“The recommended daily intake for fiber is 14 grams per every 1,000 calories consumed, or 28 grams of fiber for a 2,000 calories diet,” Ngo says.

“If you eat this amount of fiber each day, you would be consuming an adequate amount of prebiotics.”

The best way to eat prebiotic foods

Since prebiotic research is still relatively new, there is not much data on the impact of food preparation on all forms of prebiotics. Although some studies suggest temperature can affect the level of prebiotics a food contains.

Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition

And if you can avoid prolonged heat exposure to food sources of prebiotics, that may be beneficial as well. “Try not to overcook your fiber-rich foods, because heat can decrease the fiber content,” explains Ngo.

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The best prebiotic foods to add to your diet

When it comes to food sources of prebiotics, there are a few that stand out from the crowd. This is the best prebiotic food list, according to top nutrition experts.

Unripe (green) bananas

Although all bananas provide a source of fiber, it is the unripe, green bananas that are ideal for prebiotics.

If you are looking for a way to enjoy green bananas, try slicing them up and baking or frying them with a hint of salt for a crunchy, gut-friendly snack.

Oats

Oats provide a good source of fiber and whole grain, including the prebiotic fiber beta-glucan.

And the benefits of this fiber don’t stop there. Clark-Hibbs adds that some research has found this fiber also boosts your immune system and protects against certain cancers.

Garlic

“Garlic is high in the prebiotic inulin which has been shown to benefit overall digestion, diversify the gut microbiome, decrease fat accumulation, and improve appetite control,” Clark-Hibbs says.

And gut health isn’t the only benefit of adding more of this vegetable to your plate.

“Garlic has also been shown to help prevent diseases such as cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes,” adds Clark-Hibbs.

Try adding garlic into your favorite sauces and marinades or even into salad dressing as an easy way to flavor your foods while boosting your intake of prebiotics at the same time.

Blueberries

“Blueberries are a wonderful prebiotic to include in your daily diet because they not only promote gut health, but also brain health as well,” explains Ngo.

Journal of Functional Foods

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

Tart cherries

If you want to promote gut health and improve sleep, consider adding tart cherries to your diet.

Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry

To enjoy the benefits this sour fruit can offer, try adding them into smoothies or a homemade trail mix or snacking on them alone.

Lentils

New Phytologist

“Lentils provide good quality plant-based protein and contain polyphenols which are helpful in reducing heart disease risk while being the easiest to digest of any legume,” explains Cohen.

Asparagus

“Asparagus is an excellent source of antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin A and vitamins like folate and vitamin K that enhances bone health and minerals like iron and zinc,” Cohen says.

Try adding asparagus into your diet by baking or grilling it as a delicious side dish. You can also chop and dice it to add into everything stir fry to pasta dishes.

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