11 plant-based prebiotic foods that create a healthy gut
Although the terms probiotic and prebiotic sound alike and both play important roles in your digestive health, probiotics and prebiotics serve two different functions. Let’s review how prebiotics and probiotics are important in creating a healthy body and explore what types of foods are great prebiotic sources.
What are Prebiotics and Probiotics?
Prebiotics are plant fibers acting like fertilizers that stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut.
Probiotics contain live organisms and contribute to gut health by adding specific strains of bacteria directly to the population of healthy microbes in the gut.
Simply, probiotics are living strains of bacteria in your digestive system and prebiotics are their food. Probiotics and prebiotics work hand in hand and both are vital for good health.
There are many benefits to adding prebiotic foods to your diet. Prebiotics supply fiber that your good gut bacteria need to thrive, reduce the risk of autoimmune disease and gut infections, help with weight loss, balance your metabolism, support optimal brain function, support bone health, and boost your mood. Prebiotics are found in many fruits and vegetables, especially those containing complex carbohydrates.
Adding prebiotics to your diet is easy. Luckily, there is an abundance of everyday foods available to eat. Let’s explore some options.
11 Prebiotic Foods to Add to Your Diet for Best Gut Health
You might be wondering why we are recommending a weed to improve your gut health. Did you know dandelions are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber, are considered a superfood, and are an excellent prebiotic source? They are also protective against obesity, depression, and immune disease.
You cannot go wrong with dandelions! Add them to a smoothie, drink the root as tea, or add the leaves to your salads.
One of the best sources of prebiotics, onions contain a soluble fiber called oligofructose, a natural source of inulin the gut uses to increase the number of good bacteria. Onions are also rich in antioxidants and flavonoids which help prevent cancer and other chronic diseases.
Luckily, onions are abundant and are usually part of many meals or added to a salad. Eat onions cooked or raw to get your prebiotics for great gut health.
Similar to the benefits that onions give your gut, garlic is also essential to add to your diet. Garlic’s antimicrobial properties and high levels of inulin help to remove the bad bacteria from your gut and increase the good bacteria. So, add garlic to your meals and enjoy its benefits for your gut!
Another addition to the allium family of foods, leeks are an excellent source of prebiotics. They contain the same fiber, inulin, as onions and garlic. On top of creating a healthy gut, leeks stimulate bone health by enhancing calcium absorption. The bulb and lower stalk of the leek contains the highest concentration of flavonoids.
You cannot go wrong with a vegetable soup with leeks to improve your gut health! Make it even better by adding garlic and onions.
On top of vitamin K, vitamin C, and phytochemicals, spinach also protects your gut health and is an outstanding source of prebiotic. Spinach contains a sugar molecule (SQ) that moves down to the lower intestine to feed your good bacteria, creating a protective barrier between the good and bad bacteria in your gut.
Eat spinach raw in a salad or a smoothie, or eat it cooked in your meals. Give our Lentil and Spinach Tagine a try!
This tasty fruit helps repair muscles, is potassium-rich, and is an excellent source of prebiotics. Bananas have been shown to reduce bloating. They contain clusters of fructose molecules that feed your beneficial bacteria. So, eat a banana when you are wanting a snack; it’s an easy fruit to grab when in a hurry!
There is something to the saying, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Apples help rebalance your gut bacteria because they are filled with prebiotic benefits. In addition, apples are rich in health-boosting pectin, polyphenols, and antioxidants. They help to reduce LDL cholesterol, thereby boosting your metabolism and improving your overall well-being.
Grab an apple as a quick snack instead of a candy bar. Your gut will love you! Or, you can eat apple sauce as a snack, too.
A pulse is an edible seed from a legume plant. Good sources of pulses are lentils, chickpeas, beans, and split peas. Once these foods enter the large intestine, they are fermented and then turn off genes that lead to inflammation. For a healthy gut, which is paramount to excellent health, eat lots of pulses. Adopting a whole-food, plant-based diet is the best way to add pulses to your diet! Instead of eating animal-based foods that do not contain fiber, eat a veggie-bean burger, try Moroccan Melange, or Lentil Meatloaf.
Oats contain beta-glucans, a form of soluble fiber that helps feed your gut, improve insulin sensitivity, and lower LDL cholesterol. Drink oat milk instead of dairy for your best health. Eat oats with warm plant-based milk or water. You can also eat them with fresh fruit, yogurt, nuts, and seeds. Including them in a fruit smoothie is a great idea!
Another excellent source of prebiotics, flaxseeds are composed of carbohydrates, protein, fat, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. The fiber in these seeds is soluble and insoluble, which promotes healthy gut bacteria, helps create regular bowel movements, and reduces the dietary fat your body absorbs. Flaxseeds also contain phenolic antioxidant properties that contribute to fighting cancer and regulating blood sugar levels. On top of all this, flaxseeds are associated with good heart health, and they are high in omega-3 fatty acids.
Add ground flaxseeds to your hot or cold breakfast cereal, yogurt, or smoothie. You can also add them when baking cookies, bread, or muffins.
Did you know seaweed is highly nutritious and a great source of prebiotics? Studies show seaweed may provide many health benefits including promoting the growth of friendly gut bacteria, boost your immune system, and reduce the risk of colon cancer. Seaweed also contains high levels of antioxidants that improve your immune system.
There are different types of seaweed. Some examples are dulse, kelp, nori, wakame, sea spaghetti, and seaweed salt. Add seaweed flakes to meals like soups, salads, or noodle dishes. You can also add them to sandwiches, or to your homemade salad dressings, pesto, or hummus.