Prebiotics have been discussed in some detail in our previous blogs, but we are in the early stages of a movement here, and as such there are always newly emerging aspects to the conversation. While we’ve devoted several blog posts and a resource discussing prebiotic skincare in particular, we’d like to take the opportunity to think about prebiotics from a more general, nutrition-based perspective.
And before you start saying that we are out of our element, given the fact that we provide organic, plant-based prebiotic skin care products, let us make this point: the principles behind prebiotic nutrition are the same as what happens on the skin’s microbiome. While Aleavia’s prebiotic skincare line focuses on feeding the beneficial microbes found on your body and face, nutritional prebiotics have more to do with feeding the “good” bacteria found in your gut.
But like we said, the principle is the same. The benefits from rebalancing your gut and skin health are as numerous as they are powerful. Among the many benefits of incorporating prebiotics into your daily life are a healthier immune system, reduced inflammation in the body, improved mental health, lower risk for cardiovascular disease, better cholesterol levels, improved hormonal balance, lower risk for obesity...the list goes on. And while we love talking about the many benefits of living a “prebiotic and probiotic lifestyle,” today’s post concerns prebiotic foods you should consider including in your diet. If you are interested in learning more about prebiotics, organic skin care, or even how to live a more holistic lifestyle for the sake of your own well being — by all means, read on!
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, or maybe have just been able to stay off the internet for the past few years, you are probably familiar with probiotics to some degree. If you’ve been prescribed antibiotics in recent years, you may have been told to go to the grocery store and buy some probiotic yogurt to counteract the harmful, sweeping effects of your antibiotic treatment. Finally, and we mean finally, doctors are beginning to understand the consequences of over-prescribing antibiotics for decades upon decades. We don’t want to get too far into it, so we will simply say that we are thrilled that probiotics and prebiotics, along with a more nuanced understanding of gut health and nutrition, have come to the forefront of the conversation in western society.
Speaking generally, probiotics refer to the “good microbes” that exist on your skin or in your gut. When you go and buy that probiotic yogurt, you are actively placing beneficial bacteria into your digestive system. “Prebiotics,” on the other hand, refers to the act of feeding the existing beneficial microbes. Like anything else that is alive, these bacteria require sustenance of some kind. So to really reap the rewards of living that prebiotic/probiotic lifestyle, you have to be diligent about making sure you keep those millions and billions of little guys smiling and satisfied.
That being said, let’s take a look at a few different kinds of food which will accomplish exactly that!
Which Foods Contain Prebiotics?
Prebiotics are essentially a kind of fiber. Strictly speaking, they are plant fibers which can’t really be digested by the stomach, so the good bacteria will gladly derive all the nutrients they need from these kinds of foods.
Funnily enough, even if you’ve never heard of prebiotic foods before, you might already be getting a healthy dosage of them in your regular diet. Because foods that are high in fiber are typically high in prebiotics, you might just need to continue doing what you are doing! Below you’ll find several examples of foods that are especially high in prebiotics.
Raw garlic is an amazing thing. Not only does it make nearly every savory kind of meal better, but it’s chock-full of beneficial nutrients like vitamin B6, vitamin C, selenium, manganese, and more. Here are a few ways you can get more garlic into your diet:
- Cook for yourself and make sure that you put minced garlic in with whatever you are cooking. Try it in stir-fries, pastas, salsas, guacamole, hummus, and others common recipe types.
- Garlic fish
- Garlic herb popcorn
- Garlic bread
- Garlic rice
- Cheesy garlic mashed potatoes
Okay, we had better stop talking about garlic — it’s just too delicious. A final note we’d like to point out: make sure you have some breath mints or gum on hand after your garlic-infused meal. It can be quite pungent to those in your vicinity.
As is the case with garlic, raw is the way to go with asparagus, if you’d like to reap the full set of prebiotics from this snack. As a rule, in fact, go with raw produce if you are interested in eating “prebiotic produce.” This is due to the fact that cooking often breaks down some of the most vital matter in produce. That being said, not everyone finds raw garlic or asparagus easy on the palate, so we’d recommend lightly steaming the veggie in question as a happy-medium kind of compromise.
Go for the bananas that still have a healthy amount of green left on them if you are interested in maximizing your prebiotic opportunity. It might not taste quite as good as what you are familiar with, but give it a few tries and you’ll probably come around. If you still can’t get over the ripeness, try blending your green bananas with other ingredients in a smoothie, or dicing them up in a bowl of cereal. You’ve got this. We believe in you.
Chicory root is most commonly known for tasting somewhat like coffee, but more recently it has grown in popularity due to its prebiotic qualities. Here’s a fun fact: around 47 percent of chicory root fiber comes straight from the prebiotic fiber inulin. Inulin is a kind of soluble fiber that is comprised of fructose molecules that are linked together in a way that can’t be digested by the human small intestine. But your gut bacteria can certainly use it! Your gut will take the inulin, along with other prebiotics, and turn them into short-chain fatty acids, which provide a wide range of health benefits, among them being the nourishment of colon cells, which has the net effect of improving digestion and relieving constipation. For the record, garlic is also high in inulin content.
Chicory root is also high in antioxidant compounds that guard against oxidative damage.
The final prebiotic food we’ll be highlighting in today’s post is that of the onion — a tasty and nutritious vegetable which offers up an array of advantageous nutritional effects. Onions are not only rich in inulin, which makes up about 10 percent of the total fiber content in onions, but they are also high in FOS, also known as fructooligosaccharides (it’s easy to see why people like to shorten it, because we can’t even imagine being able to pronounce that word).FOS is a sweet prebiotic that promotes good bacteria and improves your immune system, and digestive system’s health.