Prebiotics are the soluble fibre that supports microbes beneficial to good gut health.
Although a relatively discovery – evidence is still emerging that supports the health benefits of prebiotics – there is already a pretty substantial list of miracles attributed to ingesting prebiotics.
According to Monash University Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, the benefits of eating a diet high in prebiotics include:
- modulation of the gut microbiota
- improved mineral absorption
- possible protection against colon cancer
- improved blood glucose and insulin profiles
- protection against intestinal infections and
- alterations in the progress of some inflammatory conditions.
Know your fibres
Dietary fibres can be soluble or insoluble and are perhaps the most critical factor to a balanced gut microbiome*.
Insoluble fibre, or roughage, is resistant to digestion and helps prevent constipation and reduce the risk of diverticular disease – a common condition in the large bowel.
Friendly bacteria break down soluble fibres in the gut to produce short-chain fatty acids. These fatty acids play an important role in colon health.
Prebiotics are the soluble fibre that, when digested, feed the good bacteria that live in your large intestine. The primary goal of prebiotics is to increase the number of healthy bacteria in your microbiome and stimulate the production of the short-chain fatty acid butyrate – the primary source of nutrition for cells in the colon.
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What makes a fibre prebiotic?
For fibre to be classified as a prebiotic, it has to pass through the digestive tract undigested and stimulate the growth and activity of ‘good’ bacteria in the large intestine. Prebiotics include fructans and galactooligosaccharides (GOS).
Increasing your intake of fibrous, prebiotic-containing foods 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, a 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 (e.g. dates, figs)
Bread/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
How much fibre?
The National Health and Medical Research Council recommends a diet containing 25g of fibre per day for women and 30g for men. However, many Australians don’t eat nearly enough fibre.
Probiotics v Prebiotics
Probiotics are living microorganisms found in bacteria and yeast, while prebiotics is non-living found in some foods. To read more about probiotics, see our recent blog on probiotics and their benefits to the 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 “mini-ecosystem”. The human microbiome comprises symbiotic, commensal and pathogenic bacteria communities.