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High-end supplements, yogurt and even protein powders are now advertising that they contain prebiotics. What are they and should you include them in your diet?

What are prebiotics?

The average human colon can contain up to 1,000 different types of bacteria. Some of these bacterial are helpful to our health and others are not. The helpful bacteria are widely known as probiotics. Just like us, bacteria need food to survive and different types of foods fuel the growth of different types of bacteria.

Prebiotics are parts of food (usually fibers) that we cannot digest but are good fuel for the probiotics. We don’t currently have enough research to make specific recommendations for using prebiotics to manage diseases or symptoms. However, prebiotic-rich foods are widely available and provide health benefits beyond just containing prebiotics. Ask your doctor or dietitian if you are considering using a probiotic supplement.

Foods that contain prebiotics

Foods rich in prebiotics include whole grains, onions, garlic, leeks, artichoke, asparagus, avocado, slightly green bananas, beans, peas and lentils. Some foods may also be supplemented with prebiotic fibers such as inulin or chicory. Many people seek out probiotics and prebiotics when they are having problems with their digestion.

IBS friendly prebiotics

While there are many potential benefits to consuming foods rich in prebiotics, people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) may experience increased bloating and abdominal pain when they increase their intake of prebiotics. Prebiotic containing foods that may be better tolerated in those with IBS are listed below.

Fruits: ½ a small banana, 1 Tbsp. raisins, ¼ cup pomegranate seeds

Cooked and cooled vegetables: potatoes, 2 thin slices beets, 1/3 cup butternut squash, ½ a cup corn

Grains: ½ cup oats, 1 cup brown rice, ½ cup cooked and cooled pasta, gluten-free multigrain bread or 1 slice of whole-grain bread

Beans and nuts: ¼ cup cooked red or green lentils, ½ cup canned lentils, ¼ cup canned chickpeas, 10 almonds

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