Most of us have heard of prebiotics and probiotics, but what exactly are they? You can think of probiotics as tiny bacteria living in our intestines. There are both good and harmful bacteria living in our gut. The types of foods you eat dictate the gut profile you have. You can think of prebiotics as the food source for the “good” gut microbes (probiotics) so that they can continue keeping us healthy. Prebiotics are also known as fiber, which is a nutrient only found in plant foods. A recent study named the following 5 foods as being the highest in prebiotics: dandelion greens, Jerusalem artichokes, garlic, leeks, and onions. While some of these may be more difficult than others to obtain, just keep in mind that trying to include more plant-based foods into your diet will increase your fiber intake, which is something many Americans are lacking.
Another way to ensure you are eating enough fiber (prebiotics) is by adding a fruit or vegetable to every meal. Think color. Every meal should have some type of “color” on the plate. You can also try swapping white, or refined, grains for the brown, or whole, grains. Snacking on nuts and seeds or adding these to breakfast cereals or oatmeal is another great way to increase fiber intake. Studies have linked higher fiber (prebiotic) intake with improved blood glucose regulation, better absorption of minerals like calcium, and markers of improved digestive and immune function. Women should aim for at least 25 g of fiber a day, while men should get closer to 35 g a day. It is best to get fiber from whole foods as opposed to supplements, but supplements may be useful in certain populations who are unable to eat enough fiber via foods.
Written by Victoria Luera, Lone Star Circle of Care Registered Dietitian. Published by Ashley Wild.