Gut health is an ever-evolving topic and the more I study it, the more fascinated I am about the links between about our gut health and it's impact on immune function, anxiety, stress and more. Sure most of us have heard about probiotics, but what about prebiotics?
“Prebiotics won’t break your bank balance and you’ll be pleased to know that they come in the form of every day foods”
Prebiotics are essentially fibre containing foods, but it is important to note that not all foods containing fibre are prebiotics. Confused? For a food to be classified as prebiotic it has some fairly strict criteria to meet;
- The ingredient must be able to resist both digestion by enzymes and any absorption, essentially meaning that it must arrive into the colon, undigested.
- The ingredient must be a food substance that can be fermented by intestinal microorganisms contained within your gut microbiota.
- The ingredient must have the ability to selectively stimulate the growth and/or activity of health promoting intestinal bacteria, most commonly Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus - two bacterias you commonly find in probiotics!
Essentially what this means is that only certain types of fibre containing foods meet the criteria to 'feed' your gut microflora, to increase good bacteria whilst inhibiting pathogenic bacterias that can arrive through the food you've eaten.
The health benefits of prebiotics are endless, with lots of similarities to those coming from fibre containing foods (my other obsession!). Two key health benefits from consuming prebiotic foods are their ability to stimulate the growth and activity of healthful bacteria AND the production of short chain fatty acids (SCFAs), both of which induce further health benefits. SCFAs lower the pH in the gut which leads to the inhibition of pathogenic bacteria and they also boost immune function by increasing production of immune boosting cells.
The most common types of prebiotic foods are those containing fructans, a type of fibre. Fructans include inulin, oligosaccharides and fructooligosaccharides and feature in everyday affordable foods. And the best bit is that you can find them in your local supermarket! Here’s 5 of my favourite everyday foods that not only qualify as prebiotic ingredients, but are pretty easy to sneak into your diet;
- Bananas (the less ripened the better)
Are you already eating many prebiotic foods? Garlic and onions are really easily incorporated into everyday dishes and if you need some inspiration, check out The Lentil Chilli recipe for its health loving ingredients.
PLEASE NOTE: If you are experiencing any gut health issues, I'd always recommend seeing a qualified practitioner for further advice.
Amy Savage is a qualified Nutritionist with a Bachelor of Health Science in Nutritional & Dietetic Medicine and is available for consultations online and in Sydney CBD. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.