Prebiotics and the Gastrointestinal System
July 17, 2013
You may know your body needs probiotics, but did you know the gastrointestinal system also needs prebiotics to function properly?
In my last blog post, I explained the benefits of having probiotics in our diet. However, in order to help stimulate the good bacteria growth, prebiotics are a key element in our digestive tract to maintain healthy digestion. With help of Dietetic Intern Kevin Ng, we’ll explain why your body needs this lesser-known plant fiber.
In order to maintain a healthy level of probiotics (“healthy bacteria” in our digestive tract), our body needs a specialized plant fiber called prebiotics. We are unable to digest these fibers but the probiotic (good bacteria) can. The prebiotics feed the probiotics, therefore helping us to keep a healthy balance which will improve digestion. Moreover, a diet rich in prebiotic plant fibers can increase calcium and magnesium absorption, reduce symptoms of IBS and help control blood sugar for diabetics.
Inulin and oligofructose are the two major types of soluble fiber that contain prebiotics. They are found primarily in vegetables. They are also sold over the counter in the form of supplements, but it’s far simpler to just eat foods that are rich in prebiotics on a daily basis. For example:
- Jerusalem Artichokes
- Greens (especially dandelion and chicories)
- Asparagus (try this great chilled asparagus and mint soup recipe from Chef Anthony Moraes)
- Wheat (try this healthy and delicious banana bread recipe from Senior Culinary Nutritionist Natalia Hancock)
Numerous studies have shown that a lack of plant fiber in the diet can reduce the growth of good bacteria in the gut. This can lead to a decline not only in digestive health but also in other areas of health. Having a diet rich in both pre- and probiotic foods will enable you to keep the healthy balance in your gut, which will aid in digestion and promote many other health benefits.
Do you get enough pre- and probiotics in your diet? Let us know your tips for healthy digestion in the comments section below.
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