Prebiotics: Food for your Microbiome

The human microbiome, or the general ecosystem of microorganisms living in the human environment, has only been at the forefront of scientific discovery and research for just over a decade.  We had to wait for technology to advance for us to get a closer look at our insides.

The Human Microbiome Project is an initiative that was created in 2008 to study the human microbiome and how the microbes that live on and within us relate of our health and wellbeing.

Thanks to this project, that continues today, we know that each and every person has a unique microbiome, just like our fingerprints.

Through this research, we have come to know more about the role of probiotics, living microbes, and the vital role that they play in our health and in our mood.  We have also learned about prebiotics.

What are Prebiotics?

Prebiotics come from the plant foods that we eat and are a type of indigestible, insoluble, fiber.  This specific type of fiber is called oligosaccharides or inulin.  Prebiotics withstand the digestive enzymes and gastric acids of the stomach without being broken down and enter into intestinal tract where they become nutrient sources for the probiotics that reside on our gut.

How do Prebiotics work with Probiotics?

Probiotics improve the absorption of vitamins and minerals from the food we eat, strengthen the intestinal walls, aids in the regulation of hormone production and increases immune function.

Prebiotics fuel these benefits to our health because they feed the probiotics.  As probiotics are nourished they multiply and stifle the production of pathogenic, disease-causing, bacteria which brings balance to the gut microbiome and increases our health and well-being.

How do I get more Prebiotics into my diet?

The following is a list of my favorite prebiotic fiber rich foods.

Chicory Root: Nearly 65% of chicory root is dietary fiber by weight and most of that is inulin, prebiotic, fiber. Organic chicory root is sold mostly ground and is used as a coffee substitute. You can find it at your local health food store or here.

Chicory is also known as endive, the leafy greens that grow from the chicory root.  Endive is a bitter green and can be green or red and comes in a flat leaf or curly leaf variety.  Although ounce for ounce the root is more concentrated with prebiotic fiber adding these tender greens to your favorite salads or even stir-fry will add beneficial fiber.

 

Flax Seeds: About 40% prebiotic fiber by weight.  Flax seeds also contain a mucilaginous fiber that helps to delay gastric emptying and can improve intestinal absorption of nutrients.  Add whole flax seeds to your morning porridge, toss into salads, or blend into a smoothie.

 

Dandelion Greens: About 24% of dandelion greens are prebiotic fiber by weight.  Dandelion greens have more vitamin A than any food except cod liver oil and beef liver! They are also rich in calcium, potassium, vitamin K and fiber. They are also beneficial in easing digestion, decreasing inflammation, aiding in detoxification and eliminating water retention.

You can grow and harvest your own, just make sure they haven’t been sprayed!  Toss them into a salad or smoothie or freeze for later use.  Just wash them, let them dry, bag them and freeze them for future smoothies.  You can also find dried dandelion greens here.  Every morning I enjoy a nice Cup-O-Dan

 

Raw Garlic: About 17.5% prebiotic fiber by weight.  Garlic is beneficial to your health in many ways.  It contains a compound known as allicin, which helps lower cholesterol levels, prevents blood clotting and has anti-microbial properties as well as anti-cancer properties.  Keeping garlic raw will increase the prebiotic benefits as cooking breaks down the potency of the fibers.  Hummus, Fermented Salsa, and Black Bean Salsa are yummy ways to eat raw garlic.

 

Onions:  From 5-8% prebiotic fiber is available from onions, by weight, depending on if they are cooked or raw.  Onions contain chromium to boost insulin production, they are also rich in quercetin to fight against free radicals and cancer, improves heart health, and is anti- inflammatory.

 

Asparagus:  About 5% prebiotic fiber, by weight.  Make sure your asparagus is only lightly steamed and not overcooked or mushy because this will destroy most of the beneficial prebiotic fiber.  Asparagus helps regulate cholesterol and contains B vitamins to help regulate blood sugar levels.  This recipe is one of my favorite asparagus recipes.

 

Jicama: About 3% prebiotic fiber by weight.  Jicama is a great Source of Vitamin C to help boost immune function, reduce inflammation and fight free radicals.  Also a potassium rich food to support normal water balance in the body, as well as aid in nerve conduction and muscle contraction.  Jicama is great for dipping into hummus or tossed into a salad for some extra crunch.

 

Bananas: Contain only about 1% prebiotic fiber by weight. Bananas are a convenient food loaded with 23% of the recommended daily value of potassium to help control heart rate and blood pressure and 28 % of the recommended value vitamin B6 to prevent anemia and coronary artery disease.

 

Apples: Contain only about 1% prebiotic fiber by weight. Apples are another convenient food with benefits to our heart, lungs and brain. The soluble fiber in apples called pectin helps keep your blood sugar stable, by preventing blood sugar spikes, which cause glucose intolerance, weight gain and diabetes.

Are you getting pre and pro biotics in your diet?

 

Photo Credit: www.stock.adobe.com

 

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