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What Are Prebiotics?

What You Need to Know About Prebiotics

By now, you probably know that taking probiotics regularly brings about a variety of health benefits — more than just gut related. Like any good thing though, probiotics need nourishing, too. That's where prebiotics come in — yep, they exist!

Prebiotics are the fuel for probiotics — the live micro-organisms in our digestive tract. "Prebiotics are carbohydrates that are indigestible to humans, that make their way to our colon completely intact, and selectively fuel the various strains of beneficial bacteria in our bodies," says Kara Landau, accredited practicing dietitian and founder of the Travelling Dietitian. Considering that good gut health is vital to reducing our inflammatory pathways, and in turn helping to prevent diseases like heart disease and Type 2 Diabetes, it's important to incorporate prebiotic-rich foods into your daily diet. And the best part is, you're likely already eating them.

According to Kara, prebiotics are generally classified into three distinct categories: soluble fibres, non-starch polysacccharides and resistant starches. These can be found in many vegetables, seeds and grains, with the densest sources being:

  • Chicory root
  • Asparagus
  • Leek
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Jerusalem artichoke
  • Oats
  • Apples
  • Chia seeds
  • Flax seeds

Additionally, "many grains, legumes, lentils, and root vegetables that are cooked and then cooled are able to develop RS3 (a type of resistant starch)," Kara says. "Consuming cold pasta salads, cold potato salad, lentil salads, or sushi rice, are [also] all plausible ways of getting in some prebiotics."

Consuming prebiotic-rich foods doesn't just benefit your gut, so rest assured, your efforts are definitely worth the while. "Soluble fibres play a role in digestive health and can also assist with lowering cholesterol levels," Kara says. "Resistant starches on the other hand, have been shown to reduce post-meal spikes in blood sugars, as well as increase satiety, leading to fewer calories being consumed at the proceeding meal."

So if you're looking to get the most out of your gut health (and you should be), it's best to consume both pre and probiotic-rich foods together, which according to Kara, can do wonders for your mental and physical wellbeing. "Probiotics are not going to be able to perform at their peak within our bodies without a continual supply of prebiotics to enable them to thrive," she says. "Without this fuel, probiotics can reduce in number and therefore diversity can wilt, leading to digestive troubles, decreased immunity, and enhanced inflammatory pathways."

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Jae Payne
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