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:
- Jerusalem artichokes
- Chicory root
- Sweet potatoes
- Fresh dandelion greens
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.