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I’m sure most of us are familiar with the term probiotics - the “good” bacteria which help to balance out the “bad” bacteria in our gut. But what are prebiotics, and why are they important? Prebiotics are simply food for our “good” bacteria. They are indigestible carbohydrates which can be obtained from either food sources or dietary supplements. When we ingest them, they stimulate the growth of these “good” bacteria and help them to function optimally. Having a well-balanced, healthy gut flora is critical for a multitude of reasons, including proper immune function, bowel regulation, optimal brain functioning, and cholesterol balance. It has also be shown to be beneficial for the prevention and/or treatment of the following conditions: atopic allergy, gastric and intestinal infections, irritable bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, urogenital tract infections, and obesity. As we expand our knowledge of prebiotics and how they positively affect the gut microbiome, it is evident that they can play a major role in optimizing health and preventing disease.
So what are the best sources of prebiotics? Although there are many prebiotic supplements on the market, supplementation may not be necessary for individuals who consume a diet high in vegetables and fruit. Obtaining nutrients from whole foods rather than supplements is ideal, and since there are a variety of wonderful foods that are rich in prebiotics, you may not need to rely on a prebiotic supplement. Examples of prebiotic-rich foods include:
So, next time you’re heading to the grocery store or local farmer’s market, keep this list of foods in mind. Incorporating a few servings in your diet each day will ensure an adequate intake of prebiotics, and will help support not only your gut micriobiome, but also your overall health.