Eat These 37 Prebiotic Foods to Optimize Your Probiotic Health
Prebiotics: Power Nutrients You Don't Know About
To reap all the benefits of probiotics, these good bacteria need to be fed correctly. Find out how prebiotics help boost your digestive health.
By Madeline R. Vann, MPH
Medically Reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH
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You’ve stocked your fridge with enough probiotics-rich low-fat or no-fat yogurt to feed a small army, but what can aid those “good” bacteria even more? The answer is the nutrient getting a lot of attention recently: prebiotics. A varied diet rich in fruits and vegetables, as well as prebiotic supplements, can support probiotic organisms and other beneficial bacteria in the gut and maximize the benefits of probiotics.
Although the field of research on prebiotics is relatively new, preliminary data suggests that eating foods that contain prebiotics could help anyone feel full longer and manage weight more effectively, as well as helping women maintain healthy bones.
You may already know about probiotics: If your doctor gives you a hefty antibiotic and recommends that you eat yogurt or take a probiotic supplement, that’s to restock the “good” bacteria in your gut that help the digestive process.
Recently, nutrition experts and physicians have been exploring what these good bacteria need to remain effective, and the answer seems to be prebiotics.
Prebiotics: Form and Function
Your intestines are inhabited by many kinds of bacteria, many of which help you stay healthy and also help you digest your food efficiently. When you eat digestion-friendly foods containing prebiotics, the digestive process creates an atmosphere that favors the probiotics you are eating in that yogurt. This shifts the balance toward the good bacteria, which can boost your digestive health.
“Prebiotics are a special form of dietary fiber that are available in plant foods, such as onions, leeks, and bananas,” says Shannon Rentz, RD, LD, adult clinical outpatient dietitian at Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland. “The prebiotics help work with probiotics to keep the chain of events going. They are the fuel for the probiotic bacteria’s growth.”
Getting Prebiotics Into Your Diet
You have two options for adding prebiotics to your diet: Eat them naturally in whole fruits and vegetables, or take a prebiotic supplement. “As with all nutrients, dietitians recommend always trying to get prebiotics from food first,” says Rentz.
Foods that contain fiber which acts as prebiotics include:
- Jerusalem artichokes
The more varied the fruits and vegetables you include in your diet, in combination with probiotic-rich yogurt, the better your digestive balance is going to be. “That’s why experts encourage five servings of fruits and or vegetables a day as a minimum,” says Rentz.
Many gastroenterology practices offer their own prebiotic supplement formulas, and you can find them online as well. However, prebiotic supplements can be pricey, ringing in at about on average for a month’s supply, says Rentz.
For an added boost to your digestive health, incorporate more foods with prebiotics into your diet, along with probiotic-friendly yogurt. Together, prebiotics and probiotics pack a one-two punch for your health.
Video: How the food you eat affects your gut - Shilpa Ravella
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