Probiotics have often hogged the spotlight, but it’s time to highlight the benefits of prebiotics! Prebiotics are naturally non-digestible components of food that encourage the growth of helpful gut bacteria. As you may have learned in our previous post on probiotics, healthy gut bacteria can lead to improved immune function and digestive health. In order for healthy gut bacteria to flourish, you’ve got to feed your gut the right “materials”—that’s where prebiotics can be helpful.
Examples of prebiotics include inulin, fructo-oligosaccharides, and other oligosaccharides, but oftentimes these words may not be found on nutrition labels. In fact, when looking for the best sources of prebiotics, your best bet is to focus on foods that don’t have a nutrition label and instead head to the produce section. Good sources of prebiotics are found in high-fiber foods such as asparagus, dandelion greens, garlic, artichokes, leeks, onions, and bananas. Wheat bran, beans, and chicory root also contain plentiful prebiotic fiber.
Now that you are familiar with the health benefits of both pre and probiotics, we should mention that together they make a pretty great team. Prebiotics are the “good” bacteria promoters and probiotics are the actual “good” bacteria. Your gut bacteria will greatly benefit when both are consumed. Food products that combine both prebiotics and probiotics are called synbiotics – think high fiber foods + fermented foods. Some examples include: yogurt topped with bananas, kombucha with chia seeds, or cooked asparagus with tempeh.
Paired together or eaten separately, prebiotics and probiotics are important additions to our everyday diet.