Move over probiotics, prebiotics are coming out to play!
Probiotics get a lot of attention in the media and have gained increasing exposure over the last several years in the movement towards boosting gut health and promoting better digestion.
But consuming probiotics is only as good as their ability to stay alive and function in our body to do the tasks they are supposed to do.
Probiotics are the “good” bacteria that we want to see populate our gut, but simply popping a pill doesn’t mean we suddenly have an influx of these inside of us.
In fact, take the wrong one, place it into a hostile environment that already exists within your gut biome or fail to give it the resources and environment it needs to grow, and you really don’t end up getting much benefit at all.
To combat this, we enter prebiotics.
Prebiotics are the food for probiotics.
They give the bacteria the nutrients they need to function in the gut, grow and reproduce and to work to re-establish a properly balanced gut flora.
When you increase your intake of probiotic foods, or start taking a probiotic supplement, don’t forget to also increase your intake of prebiotics.
Here are four good sources of prebiotics to add to your diet:
- Black-Eyed Peas: While there are many legumes that are a source of prebiotics, black-eyed peas are one of the best forms of resistant starch. Resistant starch (aka prebiotics) are starches that when consumed, resist being digested immediately in the stomach the same way that other carbohydrates are. Instead, they remain in the gut for a period of time, whereby the bacteria digest them instead, serving as food for the beneficial bacteria in your gut. Choose canned peas or cook them yourself from dry, and enjoy in stir fries, soups or on top of salads.
- Green Banana Flour: This resistant starch based flour is showing up more and more in recipes, cookbooks and online, and for good reason. It is packed with prebiotics, and is high in fibre. Made from harvesting green bananas, which are dehydrated and ground into a flour, this prebiotic source does not actually taste like bananas at all. It is quite coarse in texture and offers a dense product in return in baking. You can use it for green banana flour pancakes, a healthy prebiotic rich start to your day!
- Wheat Germ: While not suitable for those that are following a gluten free diet, even if you are trying to reduce your overall intake of starchy grains and wheat-based carbohydrates, wheat germ is not one to leave off the list. It is abundantly rich in B vitamins, important for boosting energy and reducing stress, is a source of magnesium, rich in fibre, and of course, contains inulin. This mineral found in whole grains, and some vegetables is a resistant starch. Combined with the addition of fibre, and many other vitamin and mineral benefits, wheat germ is a powerhouse ingredients you would be wise to incorporate into your diet. Add it into your smoothies, on top of your oatmeal, or sprinkle on salads.
- Asparagus: Similar to wheat germ, asparagus is a great source of inulin. It is harder to get prebiotics from vegetable sources, as inulin is found mostly in whole grains. Asparagus however, comes to the rescue with their prebiotic content, as well as being rich in other vitamins and minerals such as your B vitamins, calcium, and of course fibre. Maximal benefit is achieved from minimal cooking, so steam your asparagus for a couple of minutes or throw in the oven for the last 3-5 minutes of your cooking time. When ready, drizzle with lemon juice and sprinkle with salt. Enjoy!
While you may not have heard much about prebiotics, resistant starch or any of these ingredients, it turns out, it’s pretty easy to get your intake once you are aware. Continue consuming probiotics, but don’t let your prebiotics fall to the wayside!
By: Laura Peill, RHN, BScH – Viand Nutrition