Most people would be familiar with probiotics, which is used to describe the good bacteria that lives in your gut. At some point, you might have even tried to increase your intake of probiotic foods such as yoghurt, or even tried a probiotic supplement in a bid to take advantage of its health boosting properties.
But what about prebiotic foods? Why should we be trying to add these foods into your diet? And isn’t having probiotic foods good enough?
The short answer: No.
Think of the probiotics or good bacteria in your guts as happy little pets. The happier the pets you have living in your guts, the happier your guts will be. And like all pets, these ones need to be fed. If they don’t get fed, they will starve and become unable to thrive. Worse case scenario is their numbers start to drop and this can shift the balance between the happy pets (good gut bacteria) and the destructive feral strays (bad gut bacteria).
This is where prebiotics comes in to save the day!
Put basically, prebiotics are food for your gut bacteria – it’s what you need to keep your little pets fed and thriving. Prebiotics are a type of poorly digested carbohydrate that makes its way into the gut and is feasted on and broken down by your good gut bacteria. As a result, the gut bacteria produces some beneficial nutrients which may have positive effects on your health. These include: reducing inflammation, improving immunity and bowel cancer prevention.
So, in essence, think of prebiotics as an essential partner to probiotics. Without the prebiotics, the probiotics are unable to fully produce the beneficial health boost that we need. Here are five easy ways to give your good gut bacteria a prebiotic boost without the need for expensive supplements.
1. Bean me up, Scotty!
“Beans, beans, the magical fruit…” the song goes. And it really is magical. Legumes and lentils are a rich source of prebiotics. Unfortunately, they’re not very tasty by nature and this means that they do not get enough love from many people. One way to have more success with lentils and legumes is to make sure they are cooked in something tasty – such as a Mexican taco seasoning, or an aromatic curry, or mixed in with beef mince when making meatballs or spaghetti bolognaise. Here are some delicious family-friendly ideas:
2. Get fruity
Mid-afternoon munchies? Late night cupboard raids? Use that opportunity and make that time of the day “fruit o’clock” – and reach for a serve of fresh fruit. Fruits such as apples, peaches, nectarines, persimmons and watermelon contain good amounts of prebiotics and are also affordable and delicious when in season!
3. Give grains a chance
Most fad diets or rapid weight-loss diets commonly involve reducing or limiting carbohydrates, and this can unfortunately result in an eating pattern that is low in dietary fibre – in particular prebiotic fibre such as those found in legumes and grains. Don’t lump gut bacteria-loving grains such as barley, rye and oats into the same bucket as croissants and biscuits (Delicious! But not a source of prebiotics sadly). Try giving these fibre-rich wholegrains a go as an easy breakfast or snack option.
• Try having a couple of Ryvita Multi-grain crispbreads with some delicious Cracker Toppings as a snack.
• Try our Apple Oat Crumble with Yoghurt recipe. It’s a delicious combination of prebiotics and probiotics!
4. Take a leek
Or any of these pungent members of the Allium family such as onion, garlic, shallot or spring onion. They are great sources of prebiotics and their aromatic properties make them an essential cooking ingredient. Try these recipes:
5. Vege it up
Vegetables such as asparagus, beetroot, fennel bulb, snow peas, corn and savoy cabbage are excellent sources of prebiotics. They are best consumed when in season so keep an eye out for these! Need recipe inspiration? Try these:
Be prepared for a slight increase in wind and flatulence when trying prebiotic foods. This is normal and is a sign that your probiotic gut bacteria is having a good feast!
If you’re looking for more help book in with one of our experienced dietitians online at The Healthy Eating Hub or call us on 6174 4663.