You’ve heard all about the importance of probiotics in gut health, but what do you to help them thrive? By feeding them, of course! Get to know a few easy ways to get your prebiotics in.
Digestive health and probiotics have become increasingly popular health topics, and for good reason. Poor gut health has been linked to numerous diseases and conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, colorectal cancer, obesity, and diabetes.
Perhaps you’ve already heard all about probiotics, also known as the friendly bacteria living in the gut. These “good” guys provide us with a host of benefits: supporting and protecting your immune system, breaking down food, and synthesizing nutrients in the digestive tract. If you are familiar with the health benefits of probiotics, you may already take a supplement or eat probiotic-rich foods such as sauerkraut, cultured dairy products, or fermented beverages like kombucha.
Once the gut is flooded with good bacteria, how do the bacteria manage stay alive so we reap the benefits? It turns out our friendly bacteria need to eat, too.
Prebiotic is defined as “a selectively fermented ingredient that allows specific changes, both in the composition and/or activity in the gastrointestinal microflora (friendly bacteria), that confer benefits.” The fiber component of prebiotic foods consist of oligosaccharides, inulin, and resistant starch. Prebiotics resist digestion so they can make their way into the colon where friendly bacteria reside and ferment the undigested fiber. Most prebiotics are digested by our friendly bacteria, called Bifidobacteria which help inhibit the growth of pathogenic “bad” bacteria.
Prebiotics are easy to get through the food we eat because they occur naturally in foods. Some delicious ways to get prebiotics include:
- Jerusalem artichokes
How can you add more prebiotics in the kitchen?
1. Sauté garlic, onions, or leeks as a flavorful addition to soup, stew or stir-fry.
2. Top your oatmeal with sliced banana and a drizzle of honey.
3. Drizzle asparagus with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in the oven as tasty side dish.
The regular consumption of probiotics and prebiotics contribute to health benefits that include improved immune function, better digestion, and a lowered allergic response.
This is an amazing example of the symbiotic relationship between the food we eat, our gut bacteria, and our health.
Jessica Patel, RDN, LDN is a Chicago-based private practice dietitian who helps others connect with good food through simple, healthful cooking techniques. With a love for wholesome, natural food, Jessica uses a holistic-minded approach to nutrition to help her clients stay healthy through the healing power of nourishing foods. Visit her at Well Fed Nutrition.