Nutrition Articles

9 Foods that are Good for Your Gut

What to Eat for a Healthy Digestive System

Prebiotics: Food for Your Flora
Prebiotics are the "food" for the good bacteria that help them grow more strongly. A good prebiotic food substance:
  • does not digest in the stomach or small intestine
  • can be readily used by the bacteria once it reaches the large intestine and
  • can only be used by the good bacteria (not the harmful ones) 
While some prebiotics are found in familiar types of fiber; others are less common. However all types of prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients that stimulate the growth of good bacteria.  

The scientific names that are often used to identify prebiotics (and that you might see on some food labels) include:
  • Inulin
  • Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS)
  • Galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS)
  • Xylo-oligosaccharides
  • Polydextrose
  • Arabinogalactan
  • Polyols--laculose, lactitol 
Different combinations of these prebiotics occur naturally in many plant-based foods such as:
  • Leeks--Try cooking with leeks.
  • Asparagus--Discover new asparagus recipes.
  • Chicory--You can actually cook with this unusual root
  • Jersusalm artichokes--Also known as the sunchoke, this root veggie is delicious in many recipes.
  • Garlic--Discover why you should be adding more garlic to your cooking.
  • Artichokes
  • Bananas
  • Plums
  • Raisins
  • Onions--Lean more about what makes onions such a healthy vegetable.
  • Wheat
  • Whole grains--Discover easy ways to add more whole grains to your diet.
  • Oats--Find new ways to enjoy this healthy breakfast treat.
  • Honey--Learn why honey is a sweet choice you can feel good about.
  • Soybeans--Called edamame when they're young, these delicious beans are super versatile. 
It would take a large quantity of the above foods to exert a useful prebiotic effect in their natural state. Therefore, within today's food environment, a more realistic method involves fortifying popular foods with defined amounts of prebiotics. Inulin (a type of FOS) found in chicory root (the best natural source) has been found to be a very beneficial prebiotic. It is extracted from chicory root and added to foods and beverages, such as yogurts, cereals, breads, nutrition bars, ice-creams and frozen desserts, spreads, drinks and fortified water. 
Although benefits associated with prebiotics and probiotics are favorable, researchers are cautious about drawing firm conclusions because benefits vary, depending on type and amount of probiotic and prebiotic consumed. More human studies need to be done to provide a better understanding of their direct effect on health. For now, consuming foods that add good bacteria to your body (with probiotics) and keeping those bacteria happy once they're there (with prebiotics) is a great way to obtain the health benefit.

This article has been reviewed and approved by Becky Hand, M.Ed., Licensed and Registered Dietitian. 
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About The Author

Megan Patrick Megan Patrick
Megan Lane Patrick has been a professional writer and editor for the past 16 years, and was a chronic dieter for at least 30. A combination of weight-loss surgery, mindful eating and daily exercise finally allowed her to maintain a weight loss of more than 100 pounds. When she's not lifting weights at the gym, you can find her walking shelter dogs as a volunteer for the SPCA.

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