10 Prebiotic Foods to Feed Your Good Gut Bacteria
October 21st, 2018
Your gut microbiome affects every part of your body, from your digestion to your immune system, your skin, your brain, your hormones, and your adrenals. When your gut health is compromised, you are at a much higher risk for a whole host of health issues.
If you are currently dealing with a chronic illness such as autoimmune disease, heart disease, cancer, or mental health issues, it is crucial to address your gut health and rebalance your microbiome in order to reverse your condition and say goodbye to unpleasant, painful symptoms.
Chances are, you’ve heard about the importance of probiotics, the good bacteria that help support your gut balance. However, have you heard of prebiotics? These indigestible fibers feed your good gut bacteria, making them just as essential to keep your gut’s rainforest thriving. Probiotics and prebiotics work together to create balance in your gut and support whole-body health.
In this article, I’ll cover 10 prebiotic-rich foods that you can eat to feed your good gut bacteria and support optimal health. First, let’s explore what prebiotics are exactly, and why they are so important.
What Are Prebiotics and Why Are They Important?
Prebiotics are non-digestible fiber compounds found in certain foods that are absolutely essential for your health.
Because the human body cannot completely break down prebiotics, prebiotic compounds pass through the upper part of your gastrointestinal tract undigested. As they pass through your small intestine and reach your colon, they are fermented by your gut microflora. This fermentation process feeds the friendly bacteria in your gut, helping them to produce essential nutrients, including short-chain fatty acids such as butyrate, acetate, and propionate, which nourish your digestive system. Since your gut is the gateway to health, a healthy gut leads to a healthier body overall.1,2,3
Benefits of Prebiotics
- Improve digestion
- Reduce the risk of autoimmune disease4
- Reduce the risk of gut infections and inflammation5
- Enhance immune function
- Decrease allergy symptoms6
- Improve eczema7
- Calm inflammation8
- Lower cholesterol levels9
- Reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer10
- Improve your metabolism11
- Support bone health12
- Balance your hormones, boost your mood, and relieve stress13
- Help with weight loss14
What Is the Difference Between Prebiotics and Probiotics?
Though they sound alike and both play important roles in your digestive health, probiotics and prebiotics serve two very different functions.
Prebiotics are compounds that are fermented by beneficial bacteria in your gut in order to enhance your gut health. Probiotics, on the other hand, are live microorganisms that keep your gut flora balanced and provide you with health benefits including improved immunity, digestion, and brain function.
Basically, prebiotics feed your probiotics and the two work together to enhance your digestion and boost your overall health.15
It’s easy to enjoy the benefits of prebiotics. There are a number of delicious prebiotic foods that you can add to your daily diet (or that you might already be eating!) that feed your good gut bacteria and improve your health and wellbeing. And as always, to avoid toxicity and to receive optimal health benefits, aim to choose organic prebiotic-rich foods whenever possible.
10 Prebiotic Foods to Feed Your Good Gut Bacteria
1. Dandelion Greens
Dandelion greens are delicious in salads, and you can also add them to your green juices and smoothies. You can even make a Dandelion Cafe Latte using prebiotic-rich dandelion root tea.
Asparagus is one of my favorite vegetables and also happens to be a fantastic source of prebiotics.
Asparagus can be enjoyed steamed, as a side dish, or as part of a salad. You can also try my gut-friendly Ginger Garlic Asparagus recipe.
Bananas are high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and are easy to find year round. Slightly unripe bananas have particularly powerful prebiotic effects. They can increase good gut bacteria, reduce bloating, and improve muscle relaxation.20,21,22
If you have a sweet tooth, bananas are the perfect way to satisfy your sugar cravings. You can add them to fruit salads, green smoothies, non-dairy yogurt, or even make banana “nice” cream!
Whether you prefer sweet or tart, Fuji or Granny Smith, apples are filled with prebiotic benefits and can help rebalance your gut bacteria. The infmaous “apple-a-day” adage is nothing to scoff at: apples are so rich in antioxidants, polyphenols, and pectin that eating one or more a day can improve your digestive health, boost your fat metabolism, decrease your LDL cholesterol and reduce your risk of lung and colon cancer.23,24,25,26
Onions are versatile and nutrient-dense, rich in prebiotics, antioxidants, and flavonoids. They can strengthen your gut flora, boost your immune system, benefit your cardiovascular health, and reduce your risk of cancer.27,28
Onions add excellent flavor to soups, main dishes, and salads. Try my Wild-Caught Salmon Salad with Apples and Onion recipe for a double-dose of gut-friendly prebiotics!
Garlic is an herb with a long tradition of medicinal use, due in part to its potent antimicrobial benefits. Earning it a spot on this list, garlic is also rich in prebiotics, which aid your digestion and help prevent gastrointestinal diseases.29 Research has shown that eating garlic can help reduce your risk of heart disease and even cancer.30 As with onions, it is thought that the sulfuric compounds in garlic (which give it its pungency) are behind these anti-cancer effects.31
Garlic is best eaten raw, however if you are going to cook with it, crush or chop it up first and let it sit for at least 10 minutes to activate the enzyme responsible for garlic’s amazing health benefits. For a nutrient-dense twist on the comfort food classic, try my Garlic-Herb Cauliflower “Mashed Potato”, which is always a hit at our house!
Leeks are in the same family as garlic and onions (the Allium genus) and therefore offer similar health benefits.
They are rich in prebiotics and kaempferol, a flavonoid that combats oxidative stress by protecting your endothelial cells from damage caused by reactive oxygen species (ROS).32 Kaempferol is also known to have anti-cancer properties.33 Leeks are an excellent source of vitamin K for supporting strong bones, as well as B6 for protecting your heart health.34
The highest concentration of flavonoids in leeks is in the bulb and lower stalk, however you can use the entire leek raw, roasted, in soup or salads, or simply as a garnish.
8. Jerusalem Artichoke
Jerusalem artichoke is also known as the “earth apple”. Despite its name, jerusalem artichoke is not related to globe artichoke; rather it is a species of sunflower with a delicious, edible tuber.
Jerusalem artichokes are rich in potassium, thiamine, and fiber. They can improve the health of your gut and nervous system, strengthen your immune system, prevent metabolic disorders, and support muscle function.35,36
You can prepare them similarly to potatoes by steaming, boiling, baking, or sauteing, them. You can even eat them raw.
9. Chicory Root
Chicory root is a fantastic source of prebiotics, stimulating the growth of “good” bacteria while suppressing “bad” bacteria.37 In addition, chicory can improve your digestion, relieve constipation, prevent the early onset of diabetes, and aid in detoxification by supporting liver function.38,39
Chicory root has a distinct coffee-like flavor. When prepared as a tea, it is a wonderful alternative to coffee that can be particularly helpful for those trying to quit caffeine.
My delicious protein and fiber bars, including Chewy Chocolate, Mint Joy, and Coconut Joy, are all made with chicory root fiber (known as “inulin”), making them the perfect on-the-go gut-friendly snack.
10. Jicama Root
Jicama root is a Mexican tuber that’s crunchy, light, and low in calories. Many people describe the taste as a combination between a potato and an apple.
You can enjoy jicama raw, in salads, or make jicama rice in your food processor. I also love it in this Nightshade-free Pico de Gallo for an AIP alternative to tomato-based salsa!
For even more mouth-watering, prebiotic-rich, and autoimmune-friendly recipes, be sure to check out The Autoimmune Solution Cookbook!
Don’t Forget About Probiotics
Now that you know some powerful food sources of prebiotics that you can include in your diet, it is important not to forget about probiotics!
Remember: because prebiotics pass through your digestive system without being broken down by digestive enzymes and gastric acids, they become an important fuel and nutrient source for probiotics in your gut. Prebiotics and probiotics work closely together to maintain the balance in your microbiome. As a result, they can help support important bodily functions, lower inflammation in your body, and reduce the overall risk of chronic health issues.
By incorporating delicious prebiotic foods and powerful probiotics into your daily regimen, you can repair your gut and reclain your health and vitality.