Probiotics are having a moment in the spotlight, and rightfully so. These living organisms have health benefits when consumed or applied to the body and can help the body keep the immune system in top shape, keep gut health in check, and more—and who doesn’t want that?
So probiotics help keep us healthy. But, how can we help keep probiotics healthy so they can do what they do best? Remember – probiotics are alive, so they need some support to thrive.
And that’s where prebiotics come into play. These indigestible fibers act as fuel for some live bacteria, allowing them to selectively support the beneficial bacteria while not feeding the not-so-great bacteria. So even though prebiotic-rich foods like a slightly unripe banana, Jerusalem artichoke, and garlic don’t have live bacteria, they can support your health by feeding you those important probiotics through a serving of fermented food like sauerkraut . helping yogurt with additional live and active cultures or a probiotic supplement.
If you want to make sure you’re getting enough prebiotics to support these probiotics, you should include some prebiotic-containing foods in your diet, especially if you already like to eat fermented foods and other probiotic-rich options. Here are some examples:
Jerusalem artichoke, also known as sunning, are vegetables that are usually enjoyed cooked. It is a source of both soluble and insoluble fiber and is one of the most popular foods people eat to increase prebiotics.
garlic it is naturally rich in inulin, a type of non-digestible carbohydrate that acts as a prebiotic. Research shows that a component in garlic stimulates the growth of a beneficial type of bacteria called bifidobacteria.
asparagus, like garlic, contains inulin fiber, which acts as a prebiotic. Adding asparagus to your diet can support gut health, as well as offer other potential benefits, such as reducing the risk of developing certain cancers.
dandelion root is a popular ingredient in many protein bars and granola, and is a natural source of prebiotics. As the root of the endive plant, this ingredient can also be used to make a decaffeinated coffee-like drink.
slightly underripe bananas. If you eat your banana when the skin is that shade of green, know that you’re getting a prebiotic fiber boost when you enjoy your bites of fruit. Greener bananas contain resistant starch, which acts as a prebiotic in the body.
supplements. If you find that your diet is lacking many prebiotic-rich foods, a prebiotic supplement may be necessary. Fortunately, many prebiotic supplements are available on the supplement shelves at your local pharmacy or health food store.
So, if you’re convinced you need to include prebiotics in your diet (and we hope you are), here’s five surprising effects of prebiotics you may experience.
Read on and for more healthy eating tips, check out the #1 Best Veggie for Gut Health.
You may experience less inflammation.
The occurrence of chronic inflammation is linked to several unpleasant outcomes, including the development of diabetes and certain forms of cancer and certain heart disorders. Data show that taking prebiotics may be linked to reduced inflammation, and some data show that intake of this fiber is associated with reduced C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation.
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You may have improved gut health.
It should come as no surprise that taking prebiotics can support gut health. As a means of maintaining healthy gut microflora, prebiotic fiber is an important factor in the gut health story. Remember that the human gut is an ecosystem made up of trillions of microbes that interact with the host.
The use of prebiotics can selectively increase or decrease specific gut bacteria which in turn can promote gut health. For example, data show that the use of prebiotics can encourage the growth of bifidobacterial strains, which are beneficial strains, while not encouraging the growth of potentially harmful E. coli and Clostridium spp. strains that do not use prebiotic fiber as fuel. Ultimately, this results in the gut having more beneficial bacteria and less potentially harmful bacteria.
Also, the beneficial bacteria fed by prebiotics may produce metabolites, such as short-chain fatty acids, in the gut. These fatty acids improve gut health through a range of local effects, ranging from maintaining intestinal barrier integrity, mucus production and protection against inflammation. Some data suggest they are even linked to a reduced risk of colon cancer.
You may have better blood sugar control.
Believe it or not, the bacterial makeup in your gut can play an important role in managing type 2 and prediabetes, specifically by modulating the inflammatory response, influencing glucose metabolism, and playing a role in insulin sensitivity. Unhealthy gut microbiota is associated with reduced production of short-chain fatty acids, which, in turn, is associated with outcomes related to blood glucose management, such as insulin resistance.
Taking prebiotics can support the production of short-chain fatty acids, ultimately supporting blood glucose control. Of course, this would only be a small piece of the blood sugar management puzzle, as dietary choices, medication adherence, and physical activity participation will all play an important role in your results as well.
You may absorb calcium more effectively.
Prebiotic fiber has been shown to increase calcium absorption in clinical trials. Among the many results that have been demonstrated when evaluating this relationship, a notable study was published in British Journal of Nutrition showed that prebiotic fiber treatment increased calcium and magnesium absorption in postmenopausal women after 6 weeks.
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You may have enhanced immune health.
Selectively supporting beneficial bacteria, as prebiotics do, can prevent the colonization of pathogenic or potentially harmful bacteria. In addition, beneficial bacteria can produce short-chain fatty acid metabolites that are beneficial to the human body in many ways, including the ability to support the immune system.
When you focus on keeping your body healthy during cold and flu season, along with taking vitamin C and washing your hands, including prebiotics in your diet can help your body stay fit when you need it most immune support.