What are prebiotics?
The official definition of prebiotics is, “a non-digestible food ingredient that promotes the growth of beneficial microorganisms in the intestines.”
A simpler way to think of them is as food for probiotics. Probiotics are the, “…beneficial microorganisms in the intestines.” By feeding probiotics, prebiotics are helping them thrive and promoting the overall diversity of your body’s microbiome. In some articles, prebiotics are referred to as prebiotic fiber.
How do they work?
When you eat foods are rich in prebiotics, or the indigestible part of food such as apple skin, the prebiotics go through your small intestine undigested and are fermented once they reach your large colon. During the fermentation process, the prebiotics feed the probiotics in your body and help increase the number of desirable bacteria in your body. By promoting these desirable bacteria, prebiotics contribute to your overall health and can help reduce your risk to diseases.
What is the connection between prebiotics and oral health?
Dr. Emily Stein, the creator of Daily Dental Care LLC, talks about the relationship between prebiotics and oral health in the article, Probiotics and Prebiotics are Necessary for Dental Health. She states, “Prebiotics are not alive, but they are dietary substances that favor the growth of beneficial bacteria over harmful ones. They empower your existing good bacteria (or good bacteria introduced through probiotics) to survive and establish a balanced ration of good-to-bad bacteria using nutrients to influence the oral environment.”
In addition, Dr. Stein talks about three dental prebiotic products currently on the market. They include xylitol-based products, Revitin® toothpaste, and Daily Dental Care™ oral care lozenges. Research has shown the presence of prebiotics in these products has helped users establish balanced oral-microbiomes.
What kinds of foods are rich in prebiotics?
Since prebiotics and probiotics work together, it’s important to include both in your diet in order to maximize health benefits.
When looking to consume naturally-occurring prebiotics, look to the following food categories: fibers such as fruits and root vegetables, grains such as barley and rye, and fermented foods such as yogurt and honey. For more specific examples which are rich in prebiotics, see the list below:
- Onions – One of the easiest and most common ways of getting a daily dosage in.
- Chicory Root – 65% fiber by weight, making it one of the healthiest on this list.
- Jerusalem Artichoke – Looks more like ginger than an actual artichoke, but has an artichoke-type flavor to it.
- Garlic – Contains 17.5% fiber by weight and contains many other types of nutrients which are good for the human body.
- Leaks – Can be worked easily into dishes such as pasta and garden salads.
- Asparagus – A little tough to eat raw but can be fermented or blended into a smoothie for the same health benefits.
- Banana – Only 1% fiber by weight, but easy to take on the go and to feed to children.