The prebiotics are fiber composites which pass undigested through the upper gastrointestinal tract , and stimulate the growth or activity of beneficial bacteria colonizing the large intestine. They are substances that induce the growth or activity of microorganisms (for example, bacteria and fungi) that contribute to the well-being of the body.
A definition for children might be: “Prebiotics are types of dietary fiber that feed beneficial bacteria in the gut.” This helps the gut bacteria produce nutrients for the colon cells and leads to a healthier digestive system.
A prebiotic should increase the number or activity of bifidobacteria and lactic acid bacteria. The importance of bifidobacteria and lactic acid bacteria is that they improve digestion, mineral absorption and the effectiveness of the immune system.
They are found in many common foods and can have a powerful positive effect on health. Among the best known and most studied prebiotic substances are inulin, fructooligosaccharides, galactooligosaccharides and lactulose.
What substance is considered prebiotic?
All prebiotics are considered part of dietary fiber, although not all dietary fiber is prebiotic. To be considered a prebiotic, a substance has to meet the following requirements:
- Resist acid digestion in the stomach, the action of mammalian digestive enzymes, and absorption in the upper digestive tract.
- Be fermented by the intestinal microflora.
- Selectively stimulate the growth or activity of intestinal bacteria that have positive effects on health.
What are the benefits of prebiotics?
According to latest research In this regard, prebiotic foods are capable of:
Reduce intestinal inflammation
Did you know that prebiotics can help relieve intestinal inflammation? Various tests indicate that those who include a mixture of fructooligosaccharides and inulin in their diet reduce the presence of calprotectin in the intestine, which is a marker of intestinal inflammation.
Prebiotic foods have been shown to be able to prevent flatulence, improve fluidity in bowel movements, and relieve various intestinal complaints.
Increase intestinal absorption of certain minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, and iron
Various investigations indicate that intake of prebiotics improves calcium absorption, especially in adolescents. It is highly probable that in addition to increasing the bioavailability of calcium, it also improves the absorption of magnesium and iron, the scientists say.
Lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases
Although more in-depth studies are still to be done in this regard, it is believed that dietary fiber and prebiotics present in food can improve the levels of “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood.
This is another of the important benefits of prebiotics: help you lose weight. This was demonstrated by an investigation that took a group of obese people and administered a certain amount of prebiotics to the first subgroup and a placebo substance to the second subgroup.
After 12 weeks of treatment, people who received prebiotics lost weight, while people who received placebo gained weight.
Apparently, the increase in bacterial diversity in the intestine caused by prebiotics, stimulates the production of the satiety hormone, influences the absorption of calories and the way they are used, thus helping the loss of weight.
Decrease anxiety and stress
One of the most recent studies on prebiotics indicates that the beneficial changes they cause in the intestinal flora, help to modulate the processes related to anxiety and depression, and also regulate the neuroendocrine response to stress.
Therefore, if you include prebiotic foods in your regular diet, your anxiety levels will decrease and you will feel much better.
Help prevent colon cancer
Prebiotics can help you prevent colon cancer by modifying the composition or activity of the intestinal microflora. Diverse studies in animals they show that certain markers of colorectal cancer decrease after ingestion of prebiotics, although the effect in humans has not yet been clearly demonstrated.
Avoid or decrease episodes of diarrhea
In an investigation that was carried out in 244 healthy people who traveled to countries with a high incidence of traveler’s diarrhea, it was found that inulin (one of the best known prebiotics), helped reduce the risk of suffering from diarrhea.
Individuals who received a two-week treatment with 10 g of inulin before traveling and who continued to receive this substance for two more weeks after the start of the trip had a significantly lower risk of suffering from diarrhea, compared to the group that received only placebo.
Examples of natural prebiotic foods
Common artichokes have 3% to 10% inulin, one of the most common prebiotics. Jerusalem artichokes are especially rich in this prebiotic, and contain up to 19% inulin.
Dandelions can be used in salads and are a great source of fiber. They contain 4 grams of fiber for every 100 grams.
The inulin fiber in dandelion reduces constipation, increases beneficial bacteria in the gut, and improves the functioning of the immune system.
Dandelions are also known for their diuretic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-cancer effects, and for their ability to lower cholesterol.
Chicory root, along with artichokes, are the foods richest in inulin. While it can be difficult to include chicory root in your dishes, an easier possibility is to look for this ingredient in food supplements or snacks.
Garlic contains around 15% inulin. So if you want to enrich your meals with healthy prebiotics, garlic is an excellent option.
Whether raw or cooked, onion also contains a good amount of prebiotics, roughly 5% to 8%. It is an ingredient that you can easily include in salads and stews.
This tasty vegetable contributes 3% to 10% of its weight in the form of inulin. Therefore, preparing a rich leek tart is a very good way to improve your intestinal microflora.
This important food in the Mediterranean diet also contains a good amount of inulin. In addition, it is low in calories and rich in vitamins and other essential nutrients.
Wheat bran is another of the prebiotic foods that you can easily include in your diet. It contains approximately 5% of these types of substances.
Cooked wheat flour, present in bread, pasta, sponge cakes, cookies and cakes, contains 4.8% prebiotics. Use these foods in moderation, as excesses can make you gain weight.
Although they contain only 0.5% inulin, bananas can also be a good way to stimulate healthy gut bacteria, if they are included in the diet on a regular basis.
Legumes, potatoes and sweet potatoes have raffinose and stachyose, substances also included in the category of prebiotics.
To improve your health, include these prebiotic foods daily in your meals. Your gut will thank you.
And what other prebiotic foods do you know?