What are prebiotics? + tips for working these essential nutrients into your diet

As a busy doctor-mom, I’ve experienced the temptation to reach for the most convenient foods, either on grocery store shelves or the drive through window. And I see how my patients struggle to have a well-balanced diet in today’s busy world. That’s why I’m always looking to find ways to simplify my and my patients’ lives while still providing the nourishing meals we all enjoy.

As a gut health specialist, I also see how the “health space” overcomplicates nutrition, making it overwhelming for you. So I’m here to help guide you to make gut healthy choices for your family without the added fluff or complexity. 

In this blog, I’ll explain the science behind how prebiotics actually work. I’ll tell you about my personal favorite meal service (Splendid Spoon!), which has helped my family and patients ready to eat nutritious meals to achieve their gut health and weight goals, and I’ll throw in some bonus tips and tricks to help you reach your health goals. Come on, let’s get started! 

Let’s start with the basics.

 

What are pre– and probiotics?

Simply put, probiotics are those special little gut microbes that help keep you healthy! Prebiotics are the fiber fertilizer that feeds those microbes! 

So, what’s the best way to get them? Whole plant-based foods. It’s that simple! 

 

A Splendid Solution

Splendid Spoon is a ready-to-eat meal subscription service that focuses on getting you all that pre- and probiotic goodness you need to thrive. I’ve been using them for awhile now and I can honestly say that I’ve been very happy with the experience, both as a mom and as a gut health specialist! 

All of their meals are vegan, gluten-free, non-GMO, low in sodium, and free from added sugar. Plus, they work a ton of seasonal favorites into all their meals, which are packed with a variety of different whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. In short, they’re extremely gut-friendly.  

And they have options for everyone, from just breakfast or lunch, to full day meal plans. I’m busy! I’m seeing patients, raising two kids, and running a business. So  you can imagine that I don’t have much time to spend in the kitchen. So when I came across a meal delivery service that ticks all the boxes…

  • unprocessed,
  • fiber filled,
  • full of plant-variety,
  • and seasonal,

…it’s a no-brainer for me! 

One of my favorite dishes are the Dan Dan noodles; they’re to die for! And they’re packed with amazing prebiotic foods like bok choy, shiitake mushrooms, and tofu. It’s a great way to support my family’s microbiome in a delicious way, without all the prep work. 

Using Splendid Spoon is so easy and convenient, removing all the guesswork and saving you from having to meal plan, grocery shop and prep and cook your meals. And what’s best is whenever you do have more time to cook, you can skip and schedule for when you need the convenience.

If you’re interested in the science behind prebiotics, keep reading! 

 

The Nitty-Gritty – How prebiotics work 

Prebiotics aka certain forms of fiber (found in whole plant foods), are resistant to being digested in the upper part of your intestine. This sturdy food is not broken down by gastric acidity, or human enzymes, and instead makes its way to your colon (last part of your intestine) where it meets your gut microbiome. Your microbiome are trillions of gut microbes (most good, some potentially harmful under the wrong conditions. These microbes are the ones that digest fiber by fermenting it into a gold mine of molecules called short chain fatty acids. I know, another complex term but bare with me. Short chain fatty acids also known as postbiotics are a gold mine for gut and overall human health. These acids are the primary energy source for the cells that line the inside of the colon and aid in the regulation of several processes within our body including: 

  • Protecting the inner layer lining the gut and preventing “leaky gut”
  • Regulate Fat deposition 
  • Regulate Inflammation
  • Immune system and regulation of Tcell production
  • Lower the risk of obesity
  • Cancer suppression
  • Decreasing the risk of chronic diseases
  • Protecting against autoimmune disorders 
  • Help regulate mood and prevent against anxiety and depression
  • Cross the blood brain barrier and can help reduce risk of dementia and Parkinson’s disease 

Each community of microbes is in charge of digesting different groups of fiber. The more variety of fibers we feed our gut microbes, the more we ensure that each community is thriving and are able to do their many functions. If we restrict certain forms of fiber let’s say with “low carb” diets then a whole group of microbes doesn’t get fed, starve and start to die off.  So we need all edible plant sources including whole grains, beans, fruit, nuts, seeds, fruits and starchy vegetables –  to ensure  our microbes have the resources to replicate and serve their essential functions. 

Ensuring your diet is packed with a variety of prebiotics helps to encourage the growth of these positive microbes. So ensuring you incorporate plenty of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains into your diet can significantly boost your gut health.

While all fiber may potentially act as a prebiotic (data is ongoing on this) there are some foods that are especially useful. My top prebiotic foods include onions, cacao, banana, flaxseed, seaweed, garlic, leeks, oats and barley, apples, asparagus, jicama, chicory, burdock and roots. 

 

What’s the difference between pre and probiotics? 

I know the difference can be confusing but probiotics are live microorganisms like bacteria and yeast and, instead of feeding your existing microbes like prebiotics, they add new ones or help support the ones you already have. Fermented foods like tempeh, miso paste, certain forms of yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi are common sources. 

 

Can’t I get prebiotics in a supplement? 

When many hear the words pre or probiotics, dietary supplements might immediately come to mind, however, studies show that whole plant-based foods are the best and safest source of prebiotics for our bodies. In fact, some dietary supplements can result in worsening of your digestive issues. Speak with your doctor before taking any. 

 

Tips for consuming more prebiotic foods  

Incorporating more plants and fiber into your diet is essential for good gut health and overall wellness but I know this can be tough. 

Here are my key tips for consuming more prebiotics: 

  • Eat your greens 
  • Eat seasonally – Not only does this ensure you get the freshest ingredients possible, but seasonal foods are often more affordable. 
  • Consume less processed foods – Processed foods typically contain less fiber as the processing strips away a lot of it. Try to find the most unprocessed food you can. 
  • Eat your beans – Legumes are wonderful for your gut microbiome. They’re a fantastic source of fiber and are filled with tons of nutrients. 
  • Variety is the spice of life (and your gut) – Studies suggest that consuming at least 30 plant foods per week is associated with increased microbial diversity. The more diverse your gut microbiome, the more optimized your body’s functions will be. 

The long and short of it is that you need to eat more food at home! And this naturally takes up more time… time that we don’t always have!

 

Making prebiotics a priority 

I hope that by understanding what prebiotics are and how they work empowers you to fuel your bodies with more whole plant foods !

If you need a little help making this change, I encourage you to try Splendid Spoon. It’s a great way to make sure that you have gut healthy nutritious food options at your fingertips. 

Also, if you are looking for support to help improve your diet and boost your gut microbiome, then get in touch today or register to make an appointment. I am happy to help!

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