The importance of prebiotics in the gastrointestinal tract, also known as the gut, has been proven in several studies. In fact, several medical institutions have been conducting conferences and symposiums to discuss the enormous benefits of prebiotics to your health, specifically to the gastrointestinal tract. For example, in 2013, the New York Academy of Sciences and The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) organized a conference just for the sole purpose of discussing prebiotics and probiotics.
Prebiotics, however, must not be confused with probiotics. Probiotics are good bacteria which, when ingested, promotes your health, most especially to the digestive system. Prebiotics, on the other hand, are nondigestible carbohydrates that act as food or fertilizer for probiotics. Prebiotics promote the growth and activity of the good bacteria in the digestive system.
Here is a list of prebiotic-rich foods:
Banana is not only rich in potassium. It is also rich in fiber which is very good for digestion. A medium-sized banana has about 3 grams of fiber, making it a fairly good source. There are two types of fiber found in bananas:
- Resistant Starch
This is found in unripe bananas. This type of starch resists digestion and lingers in the colon. While it stays in the colon, good bacteria or the probiotics “feed” on the resistant starch. With this process, resistant starch stimulates the good bacteria to produce butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid which is the preferred energy source of the cells lining the colon.
This is a type of fiber which naturally occurs in all fruits and vegetables, and is considered to be very helpful in combating cancer cells. A research team from the Institute of Food Research in Norwich, England found out that pectin hinders galectin 3 (a tumor-producing protein) from spreading the cancer cells to other parts of the body. Pectin is also very useful in removing the harmful toxins in the colon, thus preventing colon cancer.
Onion is a prebiotic-rich food because it is a natural source of inulin. Inulin is a non-digestible dietary fiber. Just like the resistant starch commonly found in bananas, inulin also resists digestion. As it passes through the large and small intestines, it mixes with water, then ferments in the gut. While inulin stays in the gut, it functions as a fertilizer to the good bacteria. By keeping these good bacteria up, they keep out bad bacteria from the gut which may sometimes cause abdominal pain, bloat, or worse, diarrhea.
3. Acacia Powder
Acacia powder is considered to be one of the best sources of prebiotics. It is produced by grinding up acacia gum, which comes from the acacia tree. It contains a high amount of insoluble fiber which is fermented in the gut, thus enhancing the growth of good protective colon bacteria, such as Bifidobacterium and lactobacillus. A hundred grams of acacia powder contains 92 grams of fiber.
Just like an onion, garlic (especially the raw ones) is also rich in inulin. A hundred grams of garlic has an average of 17 grams of this non-digestible dietary fiber. Anyone who is at risk of colon cancer is advised to increase the population of bifidobacteria (a type of good bacteria) in their colon by consuming prebiotic foods, including garlic. Aside from this, diallyl disulfide – a compound derived from garlic – has shown a hopeful potential of causing a death of HT-29 colon cancer cells.
Asparagus is not only rich in vitamin K and folate. It is also rich in inulin which helps in the proliferation of good bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract, thus reducing the risk of colon cancer. The inulin content of asparagus may be around 2-3 grams per 100 grams.
Aside from the above-mentioned foods, also in the list of best prebiotic foods are:
- dandelion greens
- oats and
Sources: onegreenplanet.org, healthyeating.sfgate.com, mindbodygreen.com
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