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All About Prebiotics

You’ve probably heard of prebiotics, but did you know they’re essential for a healthy gut? Read on to find out why!

What are they?

First, let’s clear up any misconceptions about prebiotics and probiotics. Probiotics are beneficial gut bacteria and are present in certain foods, such as yogurt, sauerkraut, and other traditionally fermented foods [1]. Prebiotics, on the other hand, are compounds that feed or stimulate the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. If you’ve read our article on fibre, you might recall that soluble fibre acts as a food for beneficial gut bacteria. So is soluble fibre a prebiotic?

 

Yes! Many (but not all) prebiotics are indeed forms of soluble fibre [2]. This means that many prebiotics have the same benefits of soluble fibre, including increasing feelings of satiety, helping with healthy weight maintenance, slowing down digestion, and keeping blood sugar levels stable. But that’s not all! Prebiotics provide a whole host of other benefits as well.

How do prebiotics benefit the gut?

As mentioned, prebiotics feed beneficial gut bacteria and help them thrive. This, in turn, leads to all sorts of health benefits! 

A balanced gut microbiome is essential to a healthy gut, which is important because overall human health is closely linked to gut health [3]. The opposite is also true. For example, a disrupted, gut microbiome is associated with worsened immunity, the development of chronic inflammatory diseases, cardiovascular diseases, and numerous gut illnesses such as IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) [4]. So, by feeding and multiplying beneficial gut bacteria, prebiotics help create a healthier, more diverse, and resilient gut microbiome.

Aside from reducing the risk and alleviating the symptoms of many gastrointestinal conditions, prebiotics also help your body better absorb minerals such as calcium, iron, zin, and magnesium [5], [6], [7]. So prebiotics play a key role in improved skeletal health!

That’s a pretty impressive list of benefits. Keep reading to find out how you can incorporate more prebiotics into your diet!

Where do they come from?

Soluble Fibre
Since most prebiotics are forms of soluble fibre, consuming more plant-based whole foods high in soluble fibre is a great way to add more prebiotics to your diet. Most whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and nuts are an excellent source of soluble fibre, and thus prebiotics. Some examples include:

  • Oats, buckwheat, and barley
  • Chickpeas, black beans, lima beans, and lentils
  • Berries, figs, peaches, nectarines, apricots, apples, and tropical fruits
  • Hazelnuts, chestnuts, chia seeds, and sunflower seeds
  • Broccoli, brussel sprouts, avocados, sweet potatoes, and turnips

 

However, keep in mind that many prebiotics are high in FODMAPs*. 

*If you’re new to the low-FODMAP diet or would like to learn more, read our blog post on IBS and the low-FODMAP diet.

This means that many people following a low-FODMAP diet might be inadvertently disrupting their gut microbiome by not consuming enough prebiotics, which results in fewer beneficial gut bacteria. While there is some evidence that consuming more prebiotics, even those high in FODMAPs, might actually be more beneficial in the long run [8], you can still reap the benefits of prebiotics AND follow a low-FODMAP diet. The key is to consume high-prebiotic foods that are also low in FODMAPs. Some examples of such foods include:

  • Bananas, kiwis, and citrus fruits (such as oranges)
  • Blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries
  • Eggplants, zucchinis, green beans, okra, and carrots
  • Peanuts, walnuts, and sunflower seeds
  • Potatoes (with their skins), summer squashes, and sweet potatoes
  • Oatmeal

Just remember to stick to the right serving sizes of each food so that it remains low-FODMAP!

 

 

Polyphenols
Not all prebiotics are fibre-based! Polyphenols, which are plant-based nutrients, are another great source of prebiotics [10], [11]. Berries, cacao powder, nuts, seeds, coffee and tea are foods with some of the highest polyphenol content per serving [12].

Supplements
Another way to increase your prebiotic intake, especially if you’re avoiding certain foods, is through supplements taken with meals. Acacia gum, or gum arabic, is an excellent prebiotic supplement that is also well-tolerated by sensitive digestive systems [13], [14]. Want to learn more? You may be interested in Acazen, Alpinia’s specially formulated acacia gum prebiotic supplement. Acazen is 100% plant-based, gluten-free, odorless, and tasteless, so you can add it to almost anything!

 

The bottom line: no matter where you choose to get them from, prebiotics are vital for a thriving gut microbiome. And remember, a happy gut = a healthy you, so make sure to get those prebiotics!

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