Last week’s healthy habit was the start of this mini series in the 52 Weeks to 52 Healthy Habits series about supporting your digestive system. When it comes to improving health, supporting the GI tract is the most effective action you can take. Many people are trying to improve their digestion, minimize uncomfortable symptoms of digestive disorders, boost their immunity or trying to lose weight. Improving your GI health will surely help you reach those goals and more. To kick off this mini series, last week we focused on nourishing the GI system by consistently replenishing it with good gut bacteria known as probiotics. Be sure to check out that post before reading this one, then come back!
Prebiotics are often commonly confused with probiotics. When you consume probiotic rich foods or supplements you are attempting to actually replenish the population in the gut microbiome. This week we want to focus on incorporating prebiotic foods or foods that feed that population so we can keep them sticking around. So,
probiotics = actual bacteria in foods and supplements to replenish the natural population in the GI tract
prebiotics = the food for that bacteria to keep them happy, fed, and sticking around
Fiber is a starch/carbohydrate like substance with a chemical structure that prevents humans from digesting it. Surprisingly, even though we can’t digest, fiber is crucial for our health and well being. There are actually many types of fiber that are characterized by its ability to be fermented by the bacteria in the digestive system and the amount of bulk they add. One type of fiber, classified as prebiotic fiber is defined in a recent research summary (1) as meeting three criteria:
- Restricts the natural acidity of the gastric juices, breakdown by enzymes, and is not absorbed in the upper gastrointestinal tract
- Is fermented by the intestinal microflora
- Stimulates the growth or activity of beneficial intestinal bacteria
Potential Health Benefits of Prebiotic Fiber
The same paper summarizes the following potential benefits of prebiotic fiber as:
- reduce diarrhea associated with infection and antibiotic use
- may reduce inflammation and symptoms associated with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- decreased risk of colon cancer
- enhancement of bioavailability of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and potentially iron
- lower risk of cardiovascular disease
- increase satiety leading to weight loss and obesity prevention
Many of these benefits are similar to those found in consuming probiotics. I believe its not one or the other, you really need both!
Foods High In Prebiotic Fiber:
- Chicory Root (or inulin) — found in many commercial products, some of my favorites are KIND barsand chobani simply yogurt. It’s popular in low carb products because it has a naturally sweet taste without adding sugar.
- Dandelion Greens — I love to addDandy Blend (which contains chicory and dandelion greens) to teas, smoothies, oatmeal etc
- Jerusalem Artichoke — can be eaten raw or cooked
- Watch my video on how to prep an artichoke, it’s easier than you think I PROMISE!
- Garlic — most likely need to use fresh garlic for the fiber vs. the seasoning
- Onions and Leeks
- Bananas (especially green bananas) let’s be honest I eat a banana every day, but for those of you that need to hide them —>
- Raw Wheat Bran
- Whole Oats (all oats, steel cut oats have the highest amount)
- Broccoli and Cheddar Oatmeal Bake
- High Protein Post Workout/Run Recovery Oats
- Coconut Cream Protein Oatmeal
- Tropical Oatmeal Smoothie
- Blueberry Cottage Cheese Oatmeal
- Oatmeal Crust Breakfast Pizzas
- Anti-inflammatory Overnight Oats
- One Bowl Honey Oat Bread
- Honey Oatmeal Protein Balls
- Mason Jar Baked Oatmeal
- Grandma’s No Bake PB Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies
- Apples (especially the skin)
- Flaxseed (easily added to baked goods, smoothies and oatmeal)- be sure to keep in the fridge and use ground (not the whole seeds)
- IMO (Isomalto-oligosaccharides)
- This topic is HIGHLY debated in the nutrition world. IMO is a common component of many protein bars (used to be in quest bars until they switched to soluble corn fiber). Some say it is a prebiotic fiber worthy of its title and others debate it’s classified as a prebiotic do to a loop hole in terminology and is really just glorified processed syrup. I love many of the bars with this as an ingredient so I won’t knock it, I’ll just say don’t make a protein bar or any other processed food/supplement your main source of fiber.
This week’s challenge is to include at least one of those foods every single day. If you already do that, then shoot for two!
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52 HEALTHY HABITS IN 52 WEEKS SERIES:
The 52 Healthy Habits Series is about ditching the diet mindset and making small changes to improve health overall naturally leading to a healthy body composition, increased energy and improved health. Please follow along and check out the past weeks!
- Week 52: Healthy Habits Wrap Up
- Week 51: Nightly Reflection
- Week 50: Limit Harmful Chemicals
- Week 49: Find Your Tribe
- Week 48: Cultivating Positivity
- Week 47: Healthy Thanksgiving Tips
- Week 46: Check In
- Week 45: Mobility – Foam Rolling
- Week 44: HIIT Training
- Week 43: LISS or Steady State Cardio
- Week 42: Limit Alcohol
- Week 41: Eat White, Wait What?
- Week 40: Eat Blue & Purple
- Week 39: Eat Green
- Week 38: Eat Yellow/Orange
- Week 37: Eat Red
- Week 36: Learn Which Foods to Purchase Organic
- Week 35: Read the Ingredient List!
- Week 34: Focus.
- Week 33: Chew Your Food!
- Week 32: Meditation
- Week 31: Gratitude Journaling
- Week 30: Plan & Revamp Dessert- 20 Healthy Ideas
- Week 29: Two fistfuls of veggies per meal
- Week 28: Get In Veggies At Breakfast
- Week 27: Healthy Veggie Snacks
- Week 26: Nourishing Fats for the Gut (Healthy Digestion Part 4)
- Week 25: Keeping Regular – The Other Fiber (Healthy Digestion Part 3)
- Week 24: Feed The Probiotics With Prebiotic Fiber (Healthy Digestion Part 2)
- Week 23: Amazing Health Benefits of Probiotics (Healthy Digestion Part 1)
- Week 22: Check In
- Week 21: What You Will Learn From Recording Your Meals (Intuitive Eating Series Part 4)
- Week 20: Eat Until 80% Full (Hara Hachi Bu) (Intuitive Eating Series Part 3)
- Week 19: Limit Distractions While Eating (Intuitive Eating Series Part 2)
- Week 18: Gaging Your Hunger Cues (Intuitive Eating Series Part 1)
- Week 17: 10,000 Steps Per Day
- Week 16: Assess Your Caffeine Intake
- Week 15: Decrease Sugar Intake
- Week 14: Healthy Coffee Creamers (upgrade yours)
- Week 13: 3 Month Check In
- Week 12: Sleep Enough & Sleep Better
- Week 11: Schedule Your Workouts
- Week 10: Pack A Healthy Lunch (5 Ways to Create Endless Combinations)
- Week 9: Prioritizing Protein
- Week 8: How and What to Meal Prep
- Week 7: Create & Stick To Your Healthy Meal Plan
- Week 6: Get Enough Omega-3’s (Fight Inflammation)
- Week 5: What Is A Healthy Fat & How To Get Enough (Include Healthy Fats)
- Week 4: How to Spot A Healthy Carbohydrate (Upgrade Your Carbs)
- Week 3: Tips to Increase Veggie Intake (Eat Veggies)
- Week 2: 15 Healthy On the Go Breakfast Ideas (Eat BF Challenge)
- Week 1: Tips to Drink More Water
1. Slavin, Joanne. “Fiber and prebiotics: mechanisms and health benefits.”Nutrients 5.4 (2013): 1417-1435.