4 Reasons to Eat More Prebiotics and Where Can You Get Them From?
Prebiotics, essential for the growth of “good” bacteria, are a major breakthrough in modern medical science for no small reasons. Learn how these ingredients can help to ward off chronic diseases and maintain good overall health. Also, know the best sources of prebiotics.
A lot has been said and discovered about the role of “good” bacteria in the prevention and management of numerous health conditions. For example, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, brain health, and the list goes on.
But, do you know you can promote growth and multiplication of “good” bacteria by taking the “right” foods? What actually happens inside your gut is that the “good” bacteria, also called probiotics feed on certain food ingredients for growth. These food ingredients are collectively called prebiotics.
Supposedly, the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) defines prebiotics as substrates that are selectively utilized by host micro-organisms and confer a health benefit.
Notable prebiotics known to affect gut health include non-digestible oligosaccharides (NDOs), soluble fermentable fibers, and Human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs).
Because a wealth of scientific study now supports the role of probiotics in health maintenance and disease prevention, it becomes critically important to learn how you can feed them properly. For this reason, you should know the most powerful sources of prebiotics.
Before we dive deeper, let’s have a quick look at how prebiotics can work to give you a healthy life.
4 Science-backed Reasons to Get More Prebiotics from Your Diet
Prebiotics have shown a promising result in the prevention and/or management of a number of lifestyle diseases. Given below are the top 5 health conditions where prebiotics can be a valuable addition to your diet.
- Promote healthy digestion. The role of probiotics in improving digestion is nothing new. However, it is gradually emerging that prebiotics can promote digestive health by ways other than feeding the “good” bacteria. According to various studies, prebiotics help to maintain a balance in the gut by promoting the growth of “good” bacteria and helping to remove toxins from the digestive tract. Moreover, these beneficial food ingredients also modulate hunger and thus influence energy intake. A 2017 study published in Gastroenterology Clinics of North America notes that prebiotics could relieve the symptoms of an inflammatory digestive condition called inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
- Improve mental health and ease symptoms of depression and anxiety. There is a well-known link between gut health and mental function. An imbalance in the gut with increasing numbers of harmful bacteria has been closely linked to the development of mental illnesses like anxiety and depression. Studies have found that consuming a diet rich in prebiotics polydextrose (PDX) and galactooligosaccharide (GOS) can improve the symptoms of anxiety in kids. In addition, a prebiotic-rich also improves learning skills in children. Researchers suggest that prebiotics could be beneficial for children who are genetically more vulnerable to develop attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.
- Promote bone health. Osteoporosis is a common bone health problem which causes loss of bone mass and increases the risk of fracture. It is seen frequently in older women who have reached menopause. Prebiotics improve absorption of calcium from the digestive tract and increase bone density. Interestingly, individuals of all ages including kids and older adults can all reap the benefits by taking prebiotic-rich foods.
- Prevent and control obesity and prediabetes. Obesity is a global epidemic with widespread impact on public health. It is a well-known risk factor for diabetes, heart disease, depression and certain types of cancer. Prebiotics aid weight-loss and reduce the blood levels of “unhealthy” fats and glucose. Likewise, studies suggest they can help to reduce the accumulation of fats on the surface of blood vessels.
5 The Best Sources of Prebiotics to Include in Your Diet
- Garlic. Not only garlic wards off vampires but also kills microorganisms and improves general health. This fiber-rich herb has an incredibly beneficial fiber known as inulin. Moreover, it also contains a naturally occurring prebiotic called fructooligosaccharides (FOS). For this reason, it promotes the growth of beneficial Bifidobacteria in the gut. In addition, it also helps to protect from heart disease and has powerful antioxidant, anti-cancer, and antimicrobial activities.
- Onions. Like garlic, onions are also a rich source of prebiotics. Onions contain both inulin and FOS. FOS enhances the growth of “good” bacteria and boosts immune functions. In addition, they have potent antioxidant and anticancer properties.
- Asparagus. This popular vegetable has a high content of prebiotics. In fact, 100 grams of asparagus contains approximately 2-3 grams of inulin. By protecting the healthy gut bacteria, it helps to prevent certain cancers. Moreover, its high content of fiber along with antioxidant chemicals provides protection from chronic inflammation.
- Bananas. Rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber, bananas contain small amounts of inulin. Moreover, unripe (green) bananas contain high amounts of resistant starch. Thus, they have strong prebiotic effects. The fibers in bananas protect “good” bacteria and also reduce gas formation in the stomach.
- Barley. This popular cereal grain is high in a type of prebiotic fiber called beta-glucan. It is estimated that 100 grams of barley contain 3–8 grams of beta-glucan. In addition to promoting the growth of friendly bacteria, beta-glucan also helps to lower the bad cholesterol, LDL. Furthermore, barley lowers blood sugar levels.
Other notable foods sources include oats, apples, Konjac Root and Cocoa.
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