What Are Prebiotics?

by Melissa Chichester

By now, you’re probably well-versed in what probiotics do for the body and may have even done some research on your own. Perhaps during that research, you ran across the word “prebiotics.” Although the words sound similar, prebiotics and probiotics play different roles in the body.

Probiotics found within food are naturally created by the process of fermentation, while prebiotics are certain plant fibers that human cells are unable to digest. While that may sound like a bad thing, prebiotics provide nourishment and play an important role in gut health.*

The difference between pro- and prebiotics

Prebiotics are foods assist with maintaining good gut bacteria.* These foods most often contain inulin fiber and help maintain good microflora, in turn assisting with the balance of the digestive tract.* Inulin fiber, when consumed by gut bacteria, produces short-chain fatty acids that can be used for energy by the cells in the colon .* In essence, prebiotics feed friendly gut bacteria!

10 foods that contain prebiotics

Now that you know that prebiotics are from plant-based foods, you might be wondering what foods contain prebiotics! Here are some of our favorite sources of prebiotics.

Berries, a favorite superfood, contain fructooligosaccharides (FOS) which act as prebiotics.

Bananas that are not fully ripe contain starches that act as prebiotics and also contain small amounts of inulin. Slice and drizzle with almond butter and unsweetened coconut for a satisfying and nutritious snack.

Burdock root is wildly popular in Japan and contains naturally occurring prebiotics called fructooligosaccharides (FOS) and inulin fiber.

Chickpeas are not only a source of protein, but they contain galactooligosaccharides (GOS), which are prebiotics. Try adding them to a salad with apple cider vinegar for a nutritious treat!

Dandelion greens are a source of fiber that can be added to salads. These greens contain inulin fiber.

Garlic contains fructooligosaccharides and inulin fiber. Garlic has been traditionally used for heart health and supporting the circulatory system.*

Onions also contain fructooligosaccharides and add flavor to endless dishes!

Jerusalem artichokes are known as the “earth apple” and contain beneficial nutrients, including potassium and inulin fiber. They do not look like a traditional artichoke but instead get the name due to having a similar taste as a standard artichoke. Jerusalem artichokes are related to the sunflower family.

Jicama is a natural source of inulin fiber. This root vegetable is a cross between a potato and an apple and has a naturally sweet taste.

Konjac root contains glucomannan fiber, which is currently being studied for its prebiotic potential. Glucomannan can help support cholesterol levels already within a normal range.* Shirataki noodles are one food made from konjac root.

There are many other foods that contain prebiotics, but you can also support the digestive tract with prebiotics in supplements.*