It’s a revolutionary time in both health and science – there’s some fascinating discoveries being made between gut health and your overall health! Doctors are finally starting to recognize the massive link between your gut microbiome and your immune system. By definition, your gut microbiome is comprised of millions of bacterial colonies, some beneficial and some harmful to your health. There are still a lot of unknowns on the topic, but it’s safe to say that these bacterial colonies affect organ health and all bodily functions.
In other words, the quality of your gut microbiome can determine your overall health, and conversely, an unhealthy gut microbiome becomes a breeding ground for illness and disease, both chronic and acute. The good news is that you can heal and support your gut through diet and lifestyle!
What is a prebiotic food?
Prebiotic foods contain fiber or starch (sometimes referred to as resistant starch) that both feed and promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Prebiotic fiber is generally just a part of a certain food, and most prebiotic foods are plant-based! Prebiotic fiber is undigestible by the small intestine and ferments when it reaches the large intestine – the fermentation process feeds healthy bacteria in your gut.
Prebiotics vs. Probiotics
Whereas prebiotic foods feed and promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria, probiotics are the actual live bacteria in your gut, which make up your gut microbiome. Both are equally important to your overall health! While some probiotics can be taken as a nutritional supplement, you can think of them primarily as something that exist intrinsically. Prebiotics are foods you consume in your diet to support and maintain healthy gut flora.
6 Prebiotic Foods for Gut Health
Here are some of the best prebiotic foods for gut health, plus additional nutrition benefits!
Onions are high in antioxidants, sulfur-containing compounds, Vitamin C, folate and flavonoids. Their anti-inflammatory effects reduce the risk of cancer; in addition, onions improve bone health and help to stabilize blood sugar.
Garlic is a natural blood detoxifier with potent medicinal properties. It strengthens your immune system, enhances your body’s ability to fight illness and disease, and supports cardiovascular health. Garlic is high in Vitamin C, manganese and allicin.
3) Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are one of the best forms of resistant starch to feed your healthy gut bacteria. Rich in carotenoids (responsible for orange color) and Vitamin A, they support healthy vision, as most naturally orange foods do!
Asparagus has a natural diuretic function, which activates kidney and liver function to eliminate toxins. This is part of the reason it makes your pee smell! It’s also rich in potassium, copper, Vitamin K, Vitamin A and folate.
Bananas are high in potassium and magnesium and are a great source of fiber to aid in digestion. Unripe bananas are higher in resistant starch for prebiotic benefits, whereas ripe bananas are higher in antioxidants.
Jicama is another excellent source of resistant starch, similar to that found in sweet potatoes, but with less naturally occurring sugars. It’s a root native to Mexico and South American, and is rich in inulin, calcium and antioxidants.
The best way to maintain a healthy gut microbiome is to eat a wide variety of plant-based whole foods, including prebiotic-containing foods, as well as reduce or eliminate inflammatory foods like sugar and processed foods. You’ll love this Vegan Prebiotic Soup.
Vegan Prebiotic Soup
1 sweet potato, cubed
1 head cauliflower, core removed and chopped
1 red onion, diced
10 cloves garlic
32 oz vegetable broth
1 can coconut milk
1 tbsp coconut oil
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large stock pot, melt coconut oil over medium heat. Add sweet potato, cauliflower, onion and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add vegetable broth, cover, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Add coconut milk, salt and pepper and puree with an immersion blender or Vitamix until creamy in texture.