You are what you eat. You’ve probably heard this phrase a million times, but what does it mean exactly? Well, while we all have bacteria in our gut…some of us tend to have more of the good stuff than others. All of the microorganisms that line your gut make up your microbiome. And it turns out your gut has a huge role in your health and even your mood. And while probiotics are a hot topic in the news, there is actually a second big piece in balancing this gut health that is often overlooked. Of course, I’m talking about prebiotics. So, this brings us to the big question, what are prebiotics?
What are Prebiotics?
Prebiotics are found in some fiber containing carbohydrates, and they work by fertilizing the good bacteria in the gut. This is different from probiotics, which are the beneficial bacteria strands. Put simply, prebiotics are important in a healthy gut because they feed the beneficial bacteria from probiotics. Prebiotics are the fertilizer that feeds the good bacteria.
However, while prebiotics are always fiber, not all fiber is classified as prebiotic.
Examples of Prebiotics
Prebiotics are found in many fruits and vegetables high in resistant starch and fiber. Because these carbs aren’t digestible, they pass through your body and become food for bacteria in the colon.
While there are many foods which contain prebiotics here are a few of the most common ones:
- Yams and Sweet Potatoes
- Jerusalem Artichokes
- Legumes and Beans
Benefits of Prebiotics
Whereas probiotics add good bacteria to the gut, prebiotics help to encourage a natural increase in good bacteria. Basically, the food you eat has a big effect on your gut microbiome. Research has shown that long-term diet changes can affect your microbiota substantially.
Fostering a healthy gut can help reduce the risk of many things from cancer to food allergies. Other possible benefits may include:
- Improved mineral absorption – specifically calcium and magnesium
- Increased satiety and decreased appetite
- Weight management benefits
- Reduced glucose and insulin response
- Antimicrobial activity – They can prevent the attachment of pathogens (by promoting effects of certain probiotics.)
Side Effects of Prebiotics
Even though prebiotics provide many benefits to gut health, there are some side effects. For example, those who deal with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and are on a low FODMAP diet may have difficulties tolerating some high prebiotic foods as they can cause bloating. I encourage you to read this article about The Role of Probiotics and Prebiotics in IBS by Kate Scarlata, RDN, a digestive health expert. Furthermore, if you have IBS or other related symptoms, it may be beneficial to meet with a Registered Dietitian for a specialized plan to nurture gut health and reduce personal symptoms.
Prebiotics Weight Loss
I mentioned above that prebiotics can impact weight loss and weight management. This is a growing topic in research as evidence shows that gut microbiota plays a huge role in obesity, obesity-associated inflammation, and insulin resistance. Diet plays a huge role in our microbiota composition. Therefore, prebiotics and probiotics come into play. What’s more, it should be acknowledged that limiting foods such as sugar will also help to aid in a healthy gut. Research shows us that sugar feeds bad bacteria, which in turn contributes to disease.
Start Reaping the Benefits of Prebiotics
Now that you know what prebiotics are, start making a plan to rework your diet to include more healthy prebiotics, probiotics, and nourish a healthy guy today! What one thing can you do to help foster good gut health today?
Analysis, Health Benefits, and Application of Prebiotics: A Review
Dietary Factors: Major Regulators of the Gut’s Microbiota
Entering the World of Prebiotics – Are They a Precursor to Good Gut Health?
The gut microbiota, obesity, and insulin resistance.
Understanding the Role of Gut Microbiome in Metabolic Disease Risk.