Prebiotics, probiotics, postbiotics, oh my! Take a peek at this guest post by nutritionist and personal trainer Dustin Millhollen to shed some insight and answer our questions about prebiotic foods, why they’re important and how best to incorporate them easily into your diet.
Q: What exactly is a prebiotic food?
A prebiotic food is a food with particular types of fiber that feed gut bacteria. Fiber is the indigestible part of fruits, veggies, grains, and legumes. It not only absorbs waste products and improves motility (the movement of food through the GI tract), but is also food for the many different microrgansims that call our intestines home. So a prebiotic food is one that feeds gut bacteria.
Q: How do prebiotics work to create a healthier gut?
Feeding our gut bacteria is important in creating a healthy community of bacteria, AKA a microbiome. A healthy microbiome will display a large number AND variety of microrganisms. Different bacteria thrive on different types of food, therefore varying the types of fruits, veggies, grains, and legumes in the diet will ensure a more diverse microbiome. This diversity is important because different bacteria have different functions and end products. In fact, bacteria synthesize vitamins and other substances that keep our intestines functioning well and ensure that we get the most nutrients out of the food we eat. Therefore, variety is very important. These days the lack of diversity in plant foods and fiber means that the average person’s microbiome is less than optimal.
Q: What are your personal favorite bang-for-the-buck prebiotic food choices?
Garlic, onion, banana (green/unripened), and asparagus are all foods with high prebiotic content. Some lesser known choices that I really like are fennel bulb, Jerusalem artichoke, and green plantains. These all provide good prebiotic matter to create a healthy microbiome.
Q: If you’re new to both pre and probiotic foods, what’s the best place to start?
If you’re new to prebiotic and probiotic foods, START SLOW!! If you eat too much of either of these too quickly, you’re liable to have some unpleasant GI side effects. Start with small quantities and work your way up to a tolerable limit. I would say start with a tablespoon of sauerkraut and eat it on top of your shaved fennel salad.
Q: How much / how often should someone aim to incorporate prebiotic foods?
You should always be trying to eat as many fruits, veggies, whole grains, and legumes as you possibly can. If you’re consuming these foods as the bulk of your diet, then you’re consuming prebiotic foods. I would say that diversity is important for the sake of your microbiome, as well as your palate. Therefore, try new things. Pick up one new fruit or vegetable every time you go to the farmer’s market or grocery store. Follow food blogs or Instagram pages for recipe inspiration.
Expert Dustin Millhollen is a personal trainer and nutritionist at Hyatt Training. He holds an MS in Nutrition from National University of Natural Medicine and a CSCS from the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Learn more about Dustin, or get in touch with him by emailing us at Go@HyattTraining.com.
At Hyatt Training, your optimal health and wellness is our #1 goal. We blend art and science to create programs that are applicable to life and sport. We bring together strength and conditioning, cardiovascular health, yoga and nutrition to deliver a comprehensive lifetime health and wellness strategy made just for you. If you liked this article, you may also like some of our other posts about nutrition or holistic health.