When it comes to gut health, prebiotics play an important rolebut what exactly is prebiotic fiber, and how do you get it into your diet?
Many of us have heard ofprobiotics, the beneficial bacteria that live in our gastrointestinal tract.Probiotics have countless health benefits; they help our bodies with nutrient absorption, maintain digestive health, and even play a part inregulating our mood. Its no wonder so many health experts recommend consuming probiotic-rich foods likeyogurt and kefir, and other fermented foods.
Related Reading:A Diet Rich in Kimchi and Sauerkraut Could Help Fight Coronavirus
Probiotics are important for overall health, but theres another component to a healthy gut that is equally important. Its called prebiotic fiber (also known as just prebiotics), and it might just be the most important type of dietary fiber you can eat.
Prebiotic fiber is a type of indigestible fiber that cant be completely broken down in your stomach. Instead, these fibers are fermented by probiotic gut bacteria in your small intestine and colon where they provide food for those same bacteria. If youve never heard of prebiotic dietary fiber, youre not alone. Probiotics tend to get all the fame and glory but this process of probiotics eating prebiotics is incredibly important. Without prebiotic food for probiotics to eat, you dont receive their benefits.
Prebiotics and probiotics work together to support your health in almost countless ways. For one, when the bacteria ferment prebiotic fibers, it produces important byproducts, including the production of essential nutrients and short-chain fatty acids, which are incredibly important for colon health. Studies have even shown that low levels of short-chain fatty acids are linked to digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome andulcerative colitis, and supplementation with foods that produce short-chain fatty acids (aka, prebiotics) can lead to a decrease indiabetesandheart disease. Consuming prebiotic fiber has also been associated with fewergut infections, healthiercholesterol levels, andweight loss.
Clearly, probiotics arent the only important factor in the gut microbiome, and its about time we learned about prebiotic fiber-rich foods and how to make sure were eating enough of them.
Photo Credit: Anfisa Kameneva / EyeEm / Getty Images
We can eat all thekefirandkimchiwe want, but without prebiotic fiber for these probiotics to ferment, they wont be able to thrive and do their job of supporting our health and digestion. And unfortunately, according to the Cleveland Clinic, most Americans arent getting the25 to 25 grams of fiberthats required for our gut bacteria to really thrive.
Luckily, prebiotic fiber is found in a bunch of healthy, delicious foodsand all we have to do is eat them. According to the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, thehighest amounts of prebioticsare found in raw versions of the following foods:
As a general rule, most fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains are decent sources of prebiotic fiber. By consuming a diverse mix of these foods every day, theres a good chance youll be providing your gut bacteria with everything they need.
Photo Credit: Chowhound
Like with probiotics, many people assume they need to take a prebiotic supplement to make sure theyre getting enough. But as gut microbiome expert Gail Cresci, Ph.D., R.D.,told Cleveland Clinic, You can buy prebiotic supplements, but you dont need them if you eat the foods that fortify the army of friendly bacteria in your intestines. Therefore, most of your prebiotic needs can be satisfied with a healthy diet offresh fruits and veggies, especially if you throw in a few of the high-prebiotic foods mentioned above each week.
If you do decide to supplement, rest assured that prebiotics and probiotics are very safe. As Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.wrote for the Mayo Clinic, side effects are rare, and most healthy adults can safely add foods that contain prebiotics and probiotics to their diets.
Related Reading:Do You Need a Probiotic Supplement?
To make sure youre supporting the environment in your digestive tract the best way possible, its also recommended you consume probiotics and prebiotics at the same time, either in food- or a combined supplement-form; that way, youre providing the good bacteria and the fiber they require to thrive, all at the same time.
To get started on adding prebiotics to your routine, try ourTangy Banana Smoothie recipe, which incorporates bananas and Greekyogurt; ourJerusalem Artichoke recipe with Crispy Prosciutto; or ourAsparagus with Sweet Onions recipe.
Gretchen Lidickeris a writer, researcher, and author of the bookCBD Oil Everyday Secrets: A Lifestyle Guide To Hemp-Derived Health & Wellness. She has a masters degree in physiology and complementary and alternative medicine from Georgetown University and is the former health editor at mindbodygreen. Shes been featured in the New York Times, Marie Claire, Forbes, SELF, The Times, Huffington Post, and Travel + Leisure.
Article provided by ViacomCBS propertyChowhound.com. All featured products are curated independently by Chowhound editors. When you buy something through their retail links, Chowhound may receive a commission.
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