Prebiotics are primarily found in certain vegetables, some whole grains, sources of resistant starch (like under-ripe bananas) and even in honey. Some of the top probiotic sources, on the other hand (that use prebiotics to thrive), include cultured or fermented foods like yogurt, kefir from raw dairy, kimchi, kombucha and cultured veggies.
Some other sources include foods that contain isolated carbohydrates, such as raw honey, wheat dextrin, psyllium husk, whole-grain wheat and whole-grain corn.
If you’re thinking that this list is short, and you’re worried about how to include these foods in your diet more often, here are some tips:
One of the most realistic and delicious ways to prebiotics to your meals is by including nutrition-packed onions. Onions, both cooked or raw, give plenty of flavor to your food and also provide immune-enhancing antioxidants. They contain a natural source of inulin, one type of good bacteria that fights indigestion. Use onions in savory dishes like sauces, salads, dips and soups, or grilled on the BBQ.
Raw garlic is another easy prebiotic ingredient to use that offers loads of benefits. The benefits of garlic include: cancer prevention, along with antifungal, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties. Try using some in a tomato salad, dips, spreads or homemade hummus.
Nutrient-dense bananas that aren’t yet fully ripe have the most resistant starch and prebiotics. Look for bananas that are still greenish instead of bright yellow and spotted. While they won’t be as soft or sweet-tasting, they still work well in smoothies or even warmed up as a dessert.
Dandelion greens are another food that can be found in most grocery stores and nearly all health food stores. These leafy greens are a great source of prebiotics in addition to antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Eat them raw by chopping them up finely and adding some to a salad or side dish.
If eating asparagus raw doesn’t initially appeal to you, try fermenting them. You can easily make homemade fermented asparagus (and many other veggies too) with just some salt and a mason jar. The same goes for jicama — either slice them thinly and throw them in a salad for some crunch, or try bringing out their natural flavors and probiotics by making cultured jicama sticks.
Jerusalem artichokes, often called sunchokes, are more similar to a root vegetable than the large green artichokes you’re probably familiar with. Try shredding them and sprinkling some on top of a salad, into a smoothie or into a dip. They have a mild flavor and blend easily with other tastes.
Chicory root is useful for baking since it binds ingredients together. It’s also a high-antioxidant food and great digestive cleanser. Some people use chicory when making homemade cultured veggies, like kimchi or sauerkraut. Chicory root is also used as a coffee substitute for those suffering from caffeine overdose or additive elsewhere in the world since its taste mimics that of coffee, without any of the caffeine or acidity.
Acacia gum is used in a variety of products, including some supplements, powders and even ice cream. In herbal medicine, the gum is used to bind pills and lozenges and to stabilize emulsions. It’s possible to find powder acaia to add to smoothies in certain health food stores or online.
Probiotics and prebiotics are also added to some foods artificially and available as dietary supplements. While many food manufacturers now produce foods that are “high in fiber,” many use isolated fiber sources that are difficult to digest; some might even have mild laxative effects.
Therefore, getting fiber and prebiotics from whole, real foods is always going to be your best option. Supplementing with a quality probiotic supplement that also includes prebiotics can be beneficial too, but this shouldn’t take priority over eating a balanced, healthy diet.
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