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Prebiotics, soluble fiber, and resistant starch

Prebiotics provide fuel for the good bacteria in your gut, and in turn can improve your gut health. Therefore, it’s important to include prebiotics in your daily gut health routine. There are several types of prebiotics you can consume that include resistant starch and soluble fibers. Let’s learn a little more about these prebiotics and how you can add them to your daily routine.

What are prebiotics?

Prebiotics are certain foods or dietary compounds that help feed probiotics, or “good” bacteria. The prebiotics help the probiotics flourish in the gut, in turn helping to restore balance in the gut and relieve digestive symptoms.

Examples of prebiotics include:

  • Fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, and kombucha
  • Vegetables such as leeks, garlic, chicory, onion, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, yams, dandelion leaves, and sweet potatoes
  • Fruits like apples and bananas
  • Whole wheat
  • Barley
  • Oats
  • Cocoa
  • Flaxseeds

Research shows that prebiotics can help reduce the amount of pro-inflammatory compounds in intestinal tissue. A 2017 study reports that prebiotics can help reduce digestive discomfort in those with functional bowel disorders like IBS-C, and can also increase the number of faecal Bifidobacteria in the gut, which can help improve symptoms including stool consistency, flatulence, and bloating.

Types of prebiotics

Resistant starch

Two types of prebiotics are known as resistant starch and soluble fibers. According to Monash University, resistant starches are those starches that escape digestion from the small intestine. Instead they move to the large intestine where they fuel bacteria. When resistant starches are fermented in the gut, they produce gas. Since resistant starches are fermented much more slowly than FODMAPs, they don’t produce symptoms as harsh as FODMAPs like abdominal pain, bloating, and discomfort in those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Examples of resistant starch foods include an underripe banana, oats, and lentils.

Soluble fiber

Another type of prebiotic is soluble fibers. Monash University states that soluble fibers dissolve in water and form a thick gel in the digestive tract that slows gut transit and helps you feel fuller longer.  This gel-like substance also attracts water and in turn softens stool. Not to mention that soluble fibers can lower LDL “bad” cholesterol, stabilize blood glucose levels, and can lower risk of heart disease. Examples of soluble fiber foods include oats, lentils, legumes, nuts, seeds, and certain fruits and vegetables.

What prebiotics are low FODMAP?

The following prebiotics are high in FODMAPs and should be avoided by those following a low FODMAP diet:

  • Jerusalem artichokes (contain fructose and fructans)
  • Asparagus (1/2 spear is considered low FODMAP, but 1 spear contains moderate levels of fructose, while 5 spears or more contains high levels of fructose and fructans)
  • Leeks
  • Garlic and onion
  • Apples
  • Whole wheat
  • Barley (the only type of barley that is low FODMAP friendly is pearl barley grains, sprouted in a ½ cup serving)

Prebiotics that are ok to consume on the low FODMAP diet include:

  • Chicory leaves (1/2 cup is considered low FODMAP)
  • Yams (1 cup diced is considered low FODMAP)
  • Bananas (1 medium unripe banana is low FODMAP-friendly; 1/3 ripe banana)
  • Oats (1/2 cup uncooked is considered low FODMAP)
  • Cocoa (2 heaped teaspoons of cocoa powder is considered low FODMAP)
  • Flaxseeds (1 tablespoon is considered low FODMAP)

If you feel like you don’t consume enough low FODMAP prebiotic foods daily, then you may need a prebiotic daily supplement such as the prebiotic and probiotic supplement or the prebiotic protein snack bar by Casa de Sante.

Take home message

Eating fiber-rich fruits and vegetables each day is important for gut health. But even more so, it’s important to consume prebiotic fibers and starches each day to further fuel gut bacteria and improve the frequency of digestive symptoms. Therefore, whether its through prebiotic foods or supplements, or a mix of both, try to fit prebiotics in your diet each day so your gut can feel its best.

-written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD of LighttrackNutrition.com


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