We've talked about the importance of including fermented foods in your diet. We've touched on a bit of a philosophy on eating. Think of today's article as an expansion on this idea, zeroing in on the all important bugs of your gut. Eat the foods to feed those good bugs my friend, and you will be doing your body (and theirs!) some good. Let's talk PREBIOTICS, kittens.
PREBIOTICS vs PROBIOTICS
If you're scratching your head right now wondering if there is a typo there, I really did mean to type in prebiotics as opposed to probiotics for a reason.
To clarify, probiotics are foods or supplements containing live bacteria. We consume probiotic foods (bacteria-rich!) or supplements in order to replenish the gut microbiome, an active, vibrant and integral component of our digestive tract. Our microbiome or gut bug community plays a big part in informing our immune systems with the goings on, strengthening our immunity; our gut microbiome keeps our innards happy, helping to further digest foods we can't quite break down, taking out heavy metals, producing important micronutrients and other substances necessary for our bodies to function optimally.
A happy microbiome is necessary in order to reduce inflammation in the gut, which serves to radiate outwards to all other organs and systems in the body. So yes, please eat your fermented foods and eat them often. (Think kombucha, yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, pickles, natto, miso, kimchi, horseradish. If the label says 'live' or 'raw', you're good to go!) Read this article if you need a refresher. And check this video out to understand the importance of looking after our gut microbiome. A wonderful short from the folks at NPR.
Now that you know about those wee bugs on your body and in your digestive tract, it is important to know how to take care of them.
This is where prebiotics come in.
Prebiotics are the food for those bugs in your gut! Yes, probiotics eat prebiotics. You know how you always work better or feel better when you're eating those good foods you love? How they fuel you to get through your day? The bugs in your gut are the same. Feed them their favourite foods, and they'll return the favour in spades. The better the fuel, the happier they'll be, the more anti-inflammatory and immune-loving prowess they will bestow upon you.
What makes a food a good prebiotic?
Prebiotics are typically fibre-rich foods that we as humans can't quite break down to their smallest components. These undigested morsels of food we are name-checking today are rich in oligosaccharides and inulin, two hard-to-digest types of fibres. Good news, you're undoubtedly feasting on these good foods already! Read on for a good list of those foods to include, in order to best take care of your gut microbiome.
BEST PREBIOTIC FOODS
raw is typically a better prebiotic than the cooked version, unless noted
- apples (make sure they're organic!)
- beans (prepare first by soaking 12-24 hours before cooking in order to deactivate anti-nutrients – white navy beans ok on GAPS)
- bran (if you can tolerate grains and your digestion is working well – not ok on GAPS)
- cabbage (why do you think sauerkraut ferments so well? It's no accident.)
- coffee (little bits of beans at the bottom of your cup are wonderfoods for the bugs!)
- chicory root (buy roasted chicory root and add to dishes or ferments!)
- dandelion greens
- dandelion root (same as chicory root above – add to dishes or ferments!)
- garlic (raw is best – hooray for pesto!)
- jerusalem artichoke or sunchokes (grated in a salad)
- jicama (grated in a salad, or roasted in the oven)
- legumes (prepare first by soaking 12-24 hours before cooking in order to deactivate anti-nutrients) - or make this blitzed pulse paste to add to goods
- lettuce greens like radicchio, frisee, endive
- onion (raw=best, cooked=great)
- parsnips (if you can tolerate – not ok on GAPS)
- plantain (they look like bananas – try frying them in coconut oil and adding salt. Yum!)
- squash (all winter and summer squash like zucchini)
- sweet potatoes (if you can tolerate – not ok on GAPS)
- turnips (if you can tolerate – not ok on GAPS)
Interestingly enough, the prebiotics go up in a few specific leftovers, meaning they're better prebiotic foods if you eat them the next day than on the day they were first prepared: we're talking rice and potatoes here.
I don't want you to get caught up in counting things, or thinking of this recommendation as yet another thing you need to add to your diet. If you are consuming veg and fruit on a regular basis, ensuring sometimes raw stuff (if you can tolerate), you are good to go. If you are eating a variety of vegetables, I'm pretty sure you are covered. If you want to up the ante, add more veggies to your plate! Have salads with meals. Roast a third veg for sides at mealtimes. Above all, don't overthink this one.