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 essential to keep your gut thriving. Prebiotics and probiotics work together to create balance in your gut and support whole-body health.

Prebiotic Foods and Your Diet

As you may know, your gut 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 emotional health issues, it is crucial to address your gut health. Using prebiotic foods in your diet plan is an effective strategy for doing so.

Restoring gut health can considerably improve every area of your health, particularly your digestive issues and autoimmunity. I say it all the time – the key to optimal health is to heal your gut; and one of the most effective ways I’ve found to do so is by incorporating prebiotic foods into your AIP, elimination, or Paleo diet.  

So, what are prebiotics? In this article, I’ll discuss what prebiotics are, why they’re so important, and give you a prebiotic foods list of the best prebiotic foods that you can eat to feed your good gut bacteria and support optimal health. Let’s get started!

What Are Prebiotics?

There are various types of microorganisms that inhabit your gastrointestinal tract. While the majority live in your large intestine, these gut microbiota are also present in your stomach and small intestine, and help control your digestion, support a healthy immune response, and affect many other aspects of your health.1

Just like all living organisms, your gut microbiota needs sustenance to perform their best. This is where prebiotics come in. In simple terms, prebiotics are food for your gut bacteria. These dietary fibers come from types of carbs found in the food you eat. Some foods are higher in this fiber than others; those on the high end of the spectrum are considered prebiotic foods.

Why Are Prebiotics Important?

Because your body cannot completely break down the fiber found in prebiotic foods, these 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 of prebiotic foods 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, maintain blood sugar balance, help boost your immune system, and even affect brain neuroplasticity.2

As a dietary fiber, prebiotics help maintain a healthy weight, lowering your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and some types of cancer. Plus, soluble fiber found in prebiotic foods may help lower total blood cholesterol levels by lowering low-density lipoprotein or “bad” cholesterol levels. Researchers are also looking into how the fermentation of prebiotic foods in the colon may play a role in preventing colon diseases such as IBS, colitis, and colon cancer. 

In fact, both prebiotics and probiotics are important to your bowel and digestive system. Thanks to prebiotics, your good gut bacteria are better able to ward off pathogens in your intestinal tract and help with bloating and constipation. What’s more, prebiotics may help reduce inflammation, especially inflammation caused by bacterial overgrowth in your intestines. Since your gut is the gateway to health, a healthy gut leads to a healthier body overall.3

Benefits of Prebiotics

What is the Difference Between Prebiotic vs Probiotic?

Though they sound alike and both play important roles in your digestive health, it’s important to distinguish the functions of prebiotic vs probiotic in your body.

Prebiotics are compounds that are fermented by beneficial bacteria in your gut. Probiotics are live microorganisms that keep your gut bacteria balanced and provide you with health benefits including supporting your immune and digestive systems and optimal brain function. Basically, prebiotic foods feed your probiotics. The two work together to enhance your digestion and boost your overall health.

10 Prebiotic Foods to Feed Your Good Gut Bacteria

There are a number of prebiotic-rich foods that you can incorporate into your diet in fun and delicious ways. Below is a prebiotic foods list of some of the best prebiotic foods to feed the good bacteria in your gut. To receive optimal health benefits from this prebiotic foods list, choose organic prebiotic foods whenever possible.

10 Prebiotic Foods To Feed Your Good Gut Bacteria – Infographic – Amy Myers MD®10 Prebiotic Foods To Feed Your Good Gut Bacteria - Infographic - Amy Myers MD® Prebiotic Foods To Feed Your Good Gut Bacteria – Infographic – Amy Myers MD®

1. Dandelion Greens

Dandelion greens are excellent prebiotic foods and a great source of fiber and antioxidants. They can boost your digestion and immune system, reduce inflammation, and impact your cholesterol levels.

Dandelion greens are delicious in salads, and you can also add them to your green juices and smoothies. You can even make a Dandelion Root Cafe Latte using prebiotic-rich dandelion root tea.

2. Asparagus

Asparagus is one of my favorite vegetables and also happens to be one of the best prebiotic foods.

Eating asparagus promotes friendly gut bacteria and can help calm inflammation. It is rich in antioxidants and has even been linked to preventing certain forms of liver cancer.

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.

3. Bananas

Bananas are high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and are easy to find year-round. Slightly unripe bananas have particularly powerful effects as a prebiotic food source. They can increase good gut bacteria, reduce bloating, and improve muscle relaxation.

If you have a sweet tooth, bananas are the perfect way to satisfy your sugar cravings while getting your daily dose of prebiotic food. You can add them to fruit salads, green smoothies, non-dairy yogurt, or even make banana “nice” cream!

4. Apples

Whether you prefer sweet or tart, Fuji or Granny Smith, apples are filled with prebiotic benefits and can help rebalance your gut bacteria. In fact, the famous “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 metabolism, decrease your LDL cholesterol, support your immune system, and impact your risk of lung and colon cancer.

You can enjoy this prebiotic food for a snack, or add them to fruit salads, non-dairy yogurt, granola, green juices, smoothies, and salads. You can even use applesauce as a replacement for eggs in baked goods!

5. Onions

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.

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 prebiotic food!

6. Garlic

Garlic is an herb with a long tradition of medicinal use, due in part to its potent antimicrobial benefits. This prebiotic food can aid your digestion and help prevent gastrointestinal diseases. Research has shown that eating a prebiotic food such as garlic can help reduce your risk of heart disease and even cancer. As with onions, it is thought that the sulfuric compounds in garlic (which give it its pungency) are behind these anti-cancer effects.

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.” It’s always a hit at our house!

7. Leeks

Leeks are in the same family as garlic and onions (the Allium genus) and offer similar health benefits.

This prebiotic food source is rich in kaempferol, a flavonoid that combats oxidative stress by protecting your endothelial cells from damage caused by reactive oxygen species (ROS). Kaempferol is also known to have anti-cancer properties. Leeks are an excellent source of vitamin K for supporting strong bones, as well as B6 for protecting your heart health.

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, this prebiotic food 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.

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 prebiotic food source that stimulates the growth of “good” bacteria while suppressing “bad” bacteria. In addition, chicory can improve your digestion, relieve constipation, prevent the early onset of diabetes, and aid in detoxification by supporting liver function.

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.

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.

Jicama is rich in prebiotic fiber, vitamin C, and amino acids. It is great for your digestion, blood sugar levels, and immune system.

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, autoimmune-friendly recipes full of prebiotic foods, be sure to check out The Autoimmune Solution Cookbook!

Other Ways To Add Prebiotics

You could eat fiber-rich prebiotic foods all day and still not get optimal amounts of prebiotics daily. That’s why I have researched the best prebiotic sources to formulate Prebiotic Fiber Complete™ to maintain optimal gut health, digestion, and regular bowel patterns. 

Prebiotic Fiber Complete™ is a physician-formulated fiber blend to give the good bacteria in your gut the strength it needs to fight off the overgrowth of harmful bacteria. When you add a prebiotic to a daily probiotic, you give your gut a strong army for optimal digestive health! 

If you find incorporating prebiotic foods into your diet is difficult, you could try adding my Prebiotic Fiber Complete™ for convenience. Simply add one scoop to your water or favorite beverage.

Don’t Forget About Probiotics

It’s important to remember that prebiotics and probiotics work closely together to maintain the balance in your microbiome. The fiber found in prebiotic foods passes through your digestive system without being broken down by digestive enzymes and gastric acids. They become an important fuel and nutrient source for the probiotics in your gut. As a result, adding both prebiotics and probiotics into your daily regimen can help support important bodily functions, boost your immune system, and reduce the overall risk of chronic health issues.

Prebiotic Foods FAQs

What are prebiotics?

Prebiotics are dietary fibers that come from types of carbs found in the food you eat. Simply put, prebiotics are food for your gut microflora. Because your body can’t completely break down the fiber found in prebiotic foods, they pass through your gastrointestinal tract undigested. As they reach your colon, they are fermented by your gut microflora. Simply put, prebiotics are food for your gut microflora.

What are the benefits of prebiotic foods?

Prebiotic foods supply the fiber that the friendly bacteria in your gut need to thrive. Eating a diet rich in prebiotic foods can promote the increase of this friendly bacteria, improve metabolic health, and support optimal digestive function.

What’s the difference between probiotic foods and prebiotic foods?

Probiotic foods contribute to your gut microbiome by adding to the population of good bacteria in your digestive system. On the other hand, prebiotic foods are specialized plant fibers that stimulate growth by feeding the existing bacteria in your digestive system. In short, probiotics are living strains of bacteria, and prebiotics are their food.

What are some common prebiotic foods?

Some of the best prebiotic foods to include in your diet are garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, bananas, and seaweed.

Article Sources

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