What’s a Prebiotic?

IMG_6125One of the many reasons I like my yoga practice is that I find myself surrounded by like-minded people. The other day after class, I overheard a group of fellow yogini talk about sauerkraut, homemade kefir and PRE vs. PRObiotics. What exactly are prebiotics, I asked. Well, let me share what I learned! Come and cook with us!

The concept of prebiotics is straight forward and simple. Once we eat foods that are packed with good bacteria – a.k.a. probiotics, we have to make sure that there is plenty of nourishing food for those good bacteria to thrive on. And that food comes in the form of dietary fiber, specifically the soluble kind. While a balanced diet high in vegetables, good fats, complex carbs and the right kind of protein sounds right, most of the foods get broken down by our strong stomach acids and never make it intact past the small intestine. Prebiotics, though, are known to resist digestion in the stomach and small intestine and reach the colon – or large intestine – where they are consumed and fermented by the good gut microflora. And if this is not convincing, studies have suggested that prebiotic intake may reduce prevalence and duration of diarrhea, reduce inflammation, help prevent colon cancer, enhance bioavailablity of minerals including calcium, magnesium and iron, lower some risk factors for cardiovascular disease and promote satiety and weight loss.

So how do we get these fibers into our diet? If we all ate the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables per day, we would consume plenty of the good stuff that feeds our benevolent gut bacteria. Unfortunately, many of us don’t. But here’s a list of foods that you can add to your diet to increase your intake of prebiotics. Most of these foods are best consumed raw if you’d like to get the most prebiotic benefit, but if you can’t get excited about that, cook them as you will still get plenty of the good stuff. Bet you will look at them differently next time you’re grocery shopping:

  • Raw chicory root
  • Raw jerusalem artichokes
  • Raw dandelion greens
  • Raw garlic
  • Raw or cooked onions
  • Raw leek
  • Raw asparagus
  • Raw banana
  • Raw root vegetables such as sweet potatoes and jicama

You can snack on raw Jerusalem artichokes and jicama as well as incorporate raw onions, leeks and garlic into your salads. They’re tasty, crunchy and colorful and provide for a great alternative to the usual snack stand-ins like bars, chips or a cookie. And best of all, they make sure that all that good work you do with eating plenty of good foods is actually supported by making the environment in your gut even friendlier. Go on, include more prebiotics in your diet. Come and cook with us!

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