Our guts have 100 trillion bacteria, most of them (at least among us Westerners) "good" bacteria. Unfortunately, those good bacteria are starving due to antibiotic use; antimicrobial cleaners; and our reliance on fast-food, simple carbohydrates and saturated fats, instead of adequate plant-based fiber.
Bacteria get a bad rap, which should come as no surprise, since bacteria are responsible for many diseases. But bacteria can be good or bad; it just depends on the type. In fact, certain bacteria are so vital to our survival that, through working on the Human Microbiome Project (HMP), scientists are dedicated to exploring the important symbiotic relationship that exists between microbial cells and people.
More and more people are beginning to understand the role the gut plays in overall health, and probiotics have become an important tool in the fight against chronic disease. But did you know that prebiotics may be just as essential to maintaining a healthy microbiome?
Prebiotics shouldn’t be confused with probiotics (good bacteria for your gut). While probiots help you maintain a healthy digestive tract and prevent gut diseases, prebiotics are nondigestible compounds that help probiotics grow and thrive, so they can continue to keep your gut healthy.
In order to promote and maximize a healthy gut, you should eat prebiotic-rich foods. Don’t worry -- you don't have to figure out own your own which foods are rich in prebiotics. Here’s a quick list of prebiotic foods you can begin incorporating them into your diet:
- Jicama (yacon), Jerusalem artichoke, and chicory root all contain inulin, a form of prebiotic fiber.
- Dandelion greens are leafy green vegetables that are made up of 25% prebiotic fiber.
- Allium vegetables such as garlic, onion, leeks, chives, and scallions are great choices. Add them to food raw for the best source of prebiotics.
- Whole-grain and sprouted-grain breads
- Wheat germ, whole wheat berries
- Potato skins
- Apple cider vinegar (organic)
We feed our healthy gut bacteria through probiotics — both via eating the right foods and taking probiotic supplements. But each of us has a different microbioome (due to our genes, diet, geographical location and daily exposure) responsive to different probiotic cultures — Acidophilus, Lactobacillus, and the Bifidobacteria, being the most important. But keep in mind that to cultivate a diverse and healthy microbiome, prebiotics are also essential. So don't forget to eat your avocado.
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