Gut health is a primary area of study for scientists because many diseases or health problems begin in the gut. To promote a healthier gut, the suggestion is to consume probiotics and probiotic-rich foods. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that feed the gut, but eating probiotics is just step one. If you eat probiotics and continue eating high-fat and high-carb foods, the probiotics can’t colonize and improve your microbiome.
Probiotics don’t like burgers, French fries, pizza, fried foods, processed foods, and other unhealthy foods of the sort. As it turns out, probiotics prefer to eat prebiotics, which work to feed the probiotics in your gut. Incorporating prebiotics into your diet aids in the prevention of harmful bacterial growth in the gut. Prebiotics also allow your gut bacteria to produce nutrients for colon cells, leading to healthy digestion. Some of those nutrients include short-chain fatty acids that the bloodstream can easily absorb, leading to better metabolic health.
Think of prebiotics like fertilizer for the garden that is your gut microbiome. There are many prebiotic-rich foods, so you have options to choose from based on your taste preferences. Incorporate the following foods into your diet to increase your prebiotic intake.
Eat Underripe Bananas
Bananas are known for their potassium content, but they can also contribute to better gastrointestinal health. Underripe bananas are great sources of prebiotics, non-digestible carbohydrates that feed gut bacteria. One group of prebiotics is fructooligosaccharides, a bunch of fructose molecules that feed Bifidobacteria bacteria, which are not as present in obese people. A 2021 research study found that underripe bananas have higher prebiotic activity than their ripe counterparts. The resistant starch converts to simple sugars as the banana ripens, so ripe bananas don’t have the same prebiotic effects.
Replace Your Meat With Beans And Legumes
You don’t have to give up on meat completely, but replacing your meat with beans or legumes a couple times per week is a great start. Legumes like chickpeas, black beans, and lentils are naturally rich in protein, and they also contain galactooligosaccharides (GOS). GOS is a type of prebiotic fiber the increases beneficial bacteria in the gut, according to a 2021 study. A separate 2019 study found that increasing healthy gut bacteria improves blood lipid profile. Lastly, a January 2022 study concluded that GOS can help improve constipation in adults. So whip up a batch of vegetarian chili, chickpea tacos, black bean hummus, or lentil soup.
Eat Your Onions
Be they green, white, red, sweet, or brown, onions are some of the best sources of gut-healthy soluble fiber. Oligofructose is a natural source of inulin, a soluble fiber that essentially spring cleans the gut. It also works to feed healthy bacteria in the gut and may help people experience satiety. According to a Canadian study, subjects who supplemented with oligofructose reported weight loss and less hunger. Researchers observed that the participants who supplemented with oligofructose experienced higher levels of ghrelin, the hormone that controls hunger, which explained the results.
Enjoy Some Dark Chocolate
There’s no need to deny your sweet tooth all the time. In fact, indulging in a little dark chocolate from time to time can have some serious health benefits. Dark chocolate contains an assortment of antioxidant compounds that healthy gut microbes ferment. A 2020 study found that polyphenols in cacao increase beneficial gut bacteria, including lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. The positive shift in gut microbes aided inflammation reduction and helped enhance immune function. Not all chocolate benefits the gut, though. Opt for dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 70% or higher in order to develop a healthier microbiome.
Eat More Chia Seeds And Flaxseeds
Both chia seeds and flaxseeds are nutritionally dense, boasting omega-3s and protein. They also happen to be excellent sources of prebiotics. A June 2019 study found that eating chia seeds reduced inflammatory markers in people with type 2 diabetes. Researchers of the study believe that the prebiotic fiber in chia seeds is likely responsible for this ability. Flaxseeds contain lignans, which are prebiotics that good gut microbes ferment. It is during this fermentation process that the lignans transform into compounds that may help reduce the risk of breast cancer and breast cancer mortality. If you want to enhance the gut-boosting benefits of these seeds, enjoy them with oatmeal, smoothies, or plain Greek yogurt.