Prebiotics are non-digestible food fibres that are beneficial to the body by promoting the growth of healthy bacteria in the intestines. For that reason, to become effective, the prebiotic must not be digested within the upper gastrointestinal tract, so it can be released into the lower tract and be used by healthy bacteria in the colon, mainly lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. Unlike probiotic bacteria, prebiotic carbohydrates are not destroyed when they are cooked.
Prebiotics are normally carbohydrates like oligosaccharides. Oligosaccharides are sugar molecules consisting of three to six chains and soluble fibre. y coat mucous membranes and can be found in plants, saliva, and breast milk.
Prebiotics vs. Probiotics
Normally, probiotic bacteria are not found in the intestine. When they are introduced, they are often quickly eliminated. Therefore, prebiotic foods are important to encourage the survival and thrival of probiotic bacteria. The beneficial bacteria are needed to be constantly introduced into the body and fed the correct foods so that they stick to the intestinal wall rather than pass straight through the digestive tract.
The following are the benefits of prebiotics and probiotics working together:
- anticarcinogenic activity
- antimicrobial activity
- helping lower triglyceride levels
- stabilise blood sugar levels
- improve the immune system
- improve mineral absorption and balance
- eliminating harmful microorganisms from the gut
- helping prevent diarrhea and constipation
Prebiotic food sources
The following foods are rich in prebiotics:
- raw oats
- unrefined wheat
- unrefined barley
- Jerusalem artichokes
- chicory root
Oligosaccharides that have been classified as prebiotics and added to processed foods and supplements include:
- fibre gums
- soy oligosaccharides
Updated: July 12 2019
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