What are prebiotics?
Prebiotics are defined as non-digestible food ingredients that promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the colon. In simple terms they are types of dietary fibre that ‘feed’ the good bacteria. These include fructans (inulin and fructo-oligosaccharides), galacto-oligosaccharides, oligofructose and resistant starches. These types of dietary fibre pass through the small intestine mainly undigested, making it all the way to your large colon, where they then act like food by producing nutrients (such as short chain fatty acids).
Which foods are rich in prebiotics?
Prebiotics are found naturally in a large range of different plant-based foods including wholegrains, fruits, roots, vegetables, and legumes. Like all thing’s nutrition, eating a diverse range of plant-based foods rich in prebiotics will offer you the most benefits helping not only ‘feed’ the growth of good bacteria but also positively influencing the type of bacteria.
Grains: barley, couscous, oats, rye, wheat bran
Vegetables: asparagus, beetroot, cabbage, chicory, dandelion greens, garlic, fennel, Jerusalem artichoke, leek, onion
Legumes: chickpeas, lentils, red kidney beans, soybeans
Fruit: berries, nectarines, grapefruit, white peaches, watermelon, bananas, figs, dates
Nuts and seeds: cashews, pistachios
What about added Prebiotics?
Prebiotics are a buzz ingredient with prebiotics such as inulin and chicory being increasingly added to commercially made food products, which are then called ‘functional foods’ to provide added benefit. However, it is important to remember that although these foods may contain prebiotics, they are often processed foods. So, make sure you read the ingredients list and look for those with as few/simple ingredients as possible.
Sources of prebiotics are types of fibre, so increasing prebiotics means increase the fibre content of your diet (which is a good thing!). However, it is important when increasing the fibre content of your diet, to do it slowly and gradually, so your body can get used to it to avoid any potential side effects such as digestive upset, bloating and excess wind. This is especially relevant for those with sensitive tummies and/or following a low fodmap diet, as prebiotic foods are typically high fodmap foods.