Although a relatively new discovery – evidence is still emerging that supports the health benefits of prebotics – there is already quite a substantial list of benefits attributed to ingesting prebiotics.
According to Monash University Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, benefits to eating a diet high in prebiotics include:
Dietary fibres can be soluble or insoluble and are perhaps the most important factor to a balanced gut microbiome*.
Insoluble fibre, or roughage, is resistant to digestion and help prevent constipation and reduce the risk of diverticular disease – a common condition that occurs in the large bowel.
Soluble fibres are broken down by friendly bacteria in the gut to produce short-chain fatty acids. These fatty acids play an important role in colon health.
Prebiotics are a type of soluble fibre that when digested, feed the good bacteria that live in your large intestine. The primary goal of prebiotics is to increase the numbers of healthy bacteria in your microbiome and stimulate the production of the short chain fatty acid butyrate – the main source of nutrition for cells in the colon.
For fibre to be classified as prebiotic, it has to pass through the digestive tract undigested, and stimulate growth and/or activity of ‘good’ bacteria in the large intestine. Prebiotics include fructans and galacto-oligosachairdes (GOS).
By increasing your intake of fibrous, prebiotic-containing foods, you will naturally get more prebiotics in your diet.
Foods naturally high in prebiotics are**:
Vegetables: Jerusalem artichokes, chicory, garlic, onion, leek, shallots, spring onion, asparagus, beetroot, fennel bulb, green peas, snow peas, sweetcorn, savoy cabbage
Legumes: Chickpeas, lentils, red kidney beans, baked beans, soybeans
Fruit: Custard apples, nectarines, white peaches, persimmon, tamarillo, watermelon, rambutan, grapefruit, pomegranate. Dried fruit (eg. dates, figs)
Breads/cereals: Barley, rye bread, rye crackers, pasta, gnocchi, couscous, wheat bran, wheat bread, oats
Nuts/seeds: Cashews, pistachio nuts
Other: Human breast milk
**Courtesy of Monash University Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences
The National Health and Medical Research Council recommends a diet containing 25g fibre per day for women and 30g for men. However, many Australians don’t eat nearly enough fibre.
As seen in the table below, probiotics are living microorganisms found in bacteria and yeast, while prebiotics are non-living found in some foods. To read more about probiotics, see our recent blog on probiotics and its benefits to skin when applied topically.
Probiotic v prebiotic table courtesy of Dr Jockers
Main image courtesy of Blogarama
*a collection of microorganisms that inhabit the gut, creating a sort of “mini-ecosystem”. Human microbiome is made up of symbiotic, commensal and pathogenic bacteria communities.