In Food

on’t forget your what?

No, it’s not a misprint…I did mean to write PREbiotics!

Prebiotics hover near the top of the list as one of the most overlooked foods in our diet today, yet they are essential for the survival of our beneficial gut microbiota (referred to, from here on out, as the “good guys”, because the other one is just a mouthful). Prebiotics are what nourish and promote growth for the “good guys” within our large intestines.

Put simply, prebiotics (or resistant starch) are indigestible fiber that feed the good guys in our gut. About 90% of all prebiotic fiber makes its way through the small intestines to become food for the, often times, starved flora. In other words, we don’t digest them, but the good guys in our colon do. Don’t worry, this really is a good thing. We easily pat ourselves on the back for remembering to get probiotics (yogurt anyone?), yet we frequently overlook the necessary prebiotics to help those probiotics survive.

Due to the abysmal Westernized diet, and the rise in routine antibiotic prescriptions, our gut health is likely in serious need of repair. If you’re already experiencing gut-related issues (food sensitivities, gluten or dairy intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome, auto-immune diseases), or have recently been prescribed antibiotics, you may need to up both your pre and probiotic intake to repopulate your gut with the “good guys”, and fight off the “bad guys” (who just so happen to thrive on sugar, oy!).

It’s imperative you don’t overlook the importance of gut bacteria. Without the proper ratio of good:bad bacteria we are in for a whole host of problems. The first, and most important, being a compromised immune system. Without enough “good guys” to fight off the introduction of viral or bacterial infections, you’re prone to get struck down with every cold and flu the season throws at you.

Prebiotics are an important component of a healthy diet, especially if you want to lower your risk for cardiovascular disease, improve your cholesterol levels, improve gut health and digestion, lower stress response, balance your hormones, lower your risk for obesity and weight gain and lower inflammation and autoimmune reactions.

You may be pleased to find out you’re probably already consuming some prebiotics. It’s not difficult to add these foods into your normal routine. But it is important to be intentional about eating them and to be sure to consume them daily* (for best results, consume both pro and prebiotics at the same time). Look at it as your food pulling double duty… feeding both you AND your gut bacteria! It’s a win-win!

Ok, ok…enough “geeking out” (does anyone else love this stuff as much as I do?). Here is a list of some prebiotic rich foods to keep your “good guys” happy:

  • Jicama
  • Jerusalem artichokes
  • Bananas
  • Chicory root
  • Onions
  • Leeks
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Asparagus
  • Endive
  • Fresh dandelion greens
  • Radicchio
  • Garlic

Although consuming these foods raw will give you the most prebiotic bang for your buck, the prebiotic content is only minimally reduced by cooking.

*Remember, prebiotics are fiber, and fiber can tend to make some people…ahem…a bit gassy. Go slowly when adding these in, and if you feel discomfort, wait until your intestinal tract regulates before increasing your intake. The goal is to consume some prebiotic foods at each meal.

Sources: Mark Sisson (Although I don’t agree with his overall approach to diet, Mark puts my geekiness to shame with his post on prebiotics)
Heather McClees
Dr. Axe

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Showing 7 comments
  • Avatar

    Ok…so we’re good on the PREbiotics, although not sure how much of these foods we should be eating daily to get enough prebiotics in. Do PRObiotics come in food other than dairy? Because really…I don’t want another pill….ugh! So I’d rather do it through food intake!

    • Kelsey Steffen
      Kelsey Steffen

      Beth, try as much as possible to get most of your prebiotics from the non-starchy/non-root vegetable sources (and add the starchy ones in sparingly). The list above is just a handful of the prebiotic rich foods available. And yes, probiotics come in all forms, some of my favorites are kombucha and water kefir, or fermented foods like sauerkraut or pickles (Bubbies brand is in many grocery stores). I have a post on probiotics written and will be posting soon!

      • Avatar

        Thanks!! I can’t wait to read the new post!

        • Kelsey Steffen
          Kelsey Steffen

          Hey Beth, the probiotics post is up! Did you see it?

          • Avatar


  • Kourtney

    So very educational! Thank you! Two questions for you…
    #1 – Do the orange variety (the one we Americans so lovingly refer to as yams) of sweet potatoes also contain probiotics?
    #2 – Would a cup of Dandy Blend give me a serving of chicory root, or would I just be kidding myself to count that?

    • Kelsey Steffen
      Kelsey Steffen

      #1: Yes! The “orange variety” has prebiotics as well! In fact most root veggies will have prebiotics (some are just higher than others). #2: I’m not sure what a “serving” of chicory root would be. What I could find was that one chicory root was approximately 60 grams (is this one serving? Probably close), and one cup of chopped dandelion is 55 grams. As per the Dandy Blend website, one cup (prepared) gives you 650 mg combined dandelion and chicory which equals .65 grams, so I would say no, it’s not a serving. HOWEVER, any prebiotics will be beneficial. So drinking this once, twice or three times throughout the day will still benefit the “good guys”. If it were me, I’d still try to get some good prebiotics elsewhere.

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