Here’s Why Prebiotics Are So Important

Here’s Why Prebiotics Are So Important

Probiotics were all the rage not that long ago. And while probiotics remain very important in supporting health, prebiotics may be even more important. Here’s why.

The Health-Supporting Benefits of Prebiotics

One of the reasons prebiotics are so important is that they are food that probiotic bacteria eat to thrive in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.1 So without prebiotics, your healthy bacteria won’t get fed. Interestingly, however, there is not only a digestive advantage to prebiotics, they also support health beyond the GI tract.2

Prebiotics support health in the following ways:3

  • Increase beneficial bacteria such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli and decrease potentially harmful bacteria.
  • Produce beneficial metabolites and support calcium absorption.
  • Enhance the strength of the intestinal barrier.
  • Improve immune system defenses.

They can even help support healthy body weight.4 Because there is such a strong connection between the health of the gut and brain function, both probiotics and prebiotics have been shown to help support mental health as well.5

Foods High in Prebiotics

Prebiotics are a special type of fiber that is found in certain foods such as leeks, onions, garlic, asparagus, oats, barley, soybeans, and mushrooms.2 A diet high in vegetables will provide plenty of prebiotics for the probiotic bacteria in the gut to thrive. 

Apples and apple pectin, which is the fruit's pulp, are also great sources of prebiotic dietary fibers. Research shows that apples and apple pectin support health on many levels including the heart, immune system, brain, and more.6

While prebiotics are a form of fiber, probiotics are found in fermented foods such as yogurt, cultured buttermilk, cheese, miso, tempeh, sourdough bread, olives, and sauerkraut.7

Prebiotic dietary fibers are not only food for you, but they are also food for the healthy bacteria that live in your gut. Prebiotics and probiotics go hand-in-hand. The American Heart Association recommends eating four to five servings of vegetables daily. If you’re not getting the recommended amount of veggies in your diet, consider taking an apple pectin supplement daily.

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  1. Gazella K. New research shows prebiotic diet influences good decision-making for weight loss. Integrative Practitioner. 2023;Oct 31.
  2. Davani-Davari D, Neghdaripour M, Karimzadeh I, et al. Prebiotics: definition, types, sources, mechanisms, and clinical applications. Foods. 2019;8(3):92.
  3. Carlson JL, Erickson JM, Lloyd BB, Slavin JL. Health Effects and Sources of Prebiotic Dietary Fiber. Curr Dev Nutr. 2018;2(3).
  4. Medawar E, Beyer F, Thieleking R, et al. Prebiotic diet changes neural correlates of food decision-making in overweight adults: a randomized controlled trial. Gut. 2023;73(2).
  5. Ansar F, Pourjafar H, Tabrizi A, Homayouni A. The effects of probiotics and prebiotics on mental disorders: a review on depression, anxiety, Alzheimer, and autism spectrum disorders. Curr Pharm Biotechnol. 2020;21(7):555-565.
  6. Hyson DA. A comprehensive review of apples and apple components and their relationship to human health. Adv Nutr. 2011;2(5):408-420.
  7. Syngai G, Gopi R, Bharali R, et al. Probiotics — the versatile functional food ingredients. J Food Sci Technol. 2016;53(2):921-933.
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