Health Benefits of Prebiotics

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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Consuming prebiotics are a part of most healthy diets, but if you want to improve your overall gut health, you may want to include more prebiotic-rich foods

What are Prebiotics?

Prebiotics are certain compounds in specific foods that are able to improve the health of the gut microflora, specifically the beneficial bacteria that play a key role in digestion and immune protection. Many people consume probiotics, which are live culture bacteria in certain fermented foods, and prebiotics are the other side of the equation. Rather than contributing the bacteria in your gut, these food ingredients can help to strengthen and protect your bacterial balance. These specialized ingredients can be fermented ingredients or other forms of fiber, such as pectin, resistant starch, beta-glucans, and xylooligosaccharides. In most foods, however, you won’t see prebiotics listed as an ingredient; you will simply see “dietary fiber”.

Prebiotic foods like bananas, apples, garlic, chestnuts, red beans, onions, and yogurt

Prebiotics stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Top Prebiotic Foods

Although there is not a specific type of bacteria linked to the consumption of such foods, these supplements or dietary choices are intended to boost the levels of bifidobacteria and lactic acid bacteria in the gut. Some of the best prebiotic foods include:

Prebiotics Benefits

The main benefits of these ingredients include improved immunity, increased bone density, better gut health, weight loss, and lower inflammation among others.

Gut Health

With these ingredients in your diet, your gut bacteria are able to digest previously indigestible foods, which can produce fatty acids that protect the lining of the intestines. Furthermore, ensuring a healthy bacterial balance lowers your risk of irritable bowel syndrome, leaky gut syndrome and other common stomach issues.

Immune System

More than 50% of the immune activity in the body occurs in the gut, and these bacteria-boosting ingredients can protect your gut against pathogens and potential toxins you may ingest in your food, relieving the strain on the rest of the immune system.

Heart Disease

These ingredients have been linked to lowering overall cholesterol levels and blood pressure, while the antioxidant effects of prebiotics can protect the integrity of blood vessels and arteries, thus reducing your chances of developing coronary or ischemic heart disease.

Bone Density

Many foods that are high in prebiotics are also high in minerals, which are essential for preventing bone mineral loss and osteoporosis as we age.

Weight Loss

People often link these nutritional elements to weight loss, primarily because they are usually different forms of fiber. Fiber is able to bulk up the stool and increase feelings of fullness, which can reduce snacking and overeating.

Mood Swings

Although the gut seems very far away from the brain, a healthy gut means normalized hormonal levels. In turn, this can control mood swings and symptoms of anxiety, as well as other hormonal processes in the body.

Inflammation

By modulating the metabolism, these food ingredients can help to regulate the inflammatory response in the body, thus helping those with rheumatoid arthritis, gout, headaches and other chronic inflammatory conditions.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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