Prebiotic foods carry essential dietary fibers that can be fermented by the commensal bacteria in the large colon. These complex carbohydrates based fiber chains are the desired and required foodstuffs for our gut microbiota.
As per International Scientific Association for Prebiotics and Probiotics (ISAPP) Prebiotics are, “a non-digestible compound that, through its metabolization by microorganisms in the gut, modulates composition and/or activity of the gut microbiota, thus conferring a beneficial physiologic effect on the host”.
Categorisation of Prebiotic Foods
Eight categories of Prebiotic Foods have been defined based on their composition and how they interact with our gut microbiota. All natural prebiotic foods fall within these categories.
For optimal health benefits, one should try to include all natural categories on regular basis. Include a variety in your weekly menu.
Beta-glucans are water-soluble substance founds in cereals with varieties in chemical structure. They are found in mushrooms, algae, seaweed, and other marine plants. Oats, Barley, Wheat, Quinoa, and Millets are the best sources of beta-glucans.
2. Fructans – FOS and Inulin
These are various substances including inulin, fructooligosaccharides (FOSs) and oligofructose. They have good Bifigenic effects (positive effects on the growth of friendly bacteria Bifidobacteriareside).
3. Galactooligosaccharides – GOS
They are composed of 2-10 galactose molecules and 1 glucose molecule. They influence the GI bacteria in different manners.
Some examples are Lentils, Chick-peas, kidney-beans, lima beans, mung beans, black gram, green peas.
4. Iso-maltooligo-saccharides – IMO
They are composed of glucose monomers linked together in different ways to give: isomaltose, isomaltotriose, and panose. IMO is naturally found only in few food sources. Most IMOs are commercially produced.
They are also partially digested in the colon. Artificially produced IMO should be taken within the limit (5 – 10g per day). High doses as 30 gram per day can cause GI side-effects and also lead to obesity.
5. Guar gum
It is gel-like forming galactomannan found in
It is diasaccharide composed of galactose and fructose. It is neither digested nor absorbed but it is so beneficial for GI especially for constipation and prevention of hyperammonemia encephalopathy in patients with severe liver diseases.
7. Resistant Starches – RS and Maltodextrin
RS are broad spectrum of starches which escape digestion in upper GI tract. Resistant maltodextrin is low-viscosity water-soluble dextrin produced through processing of cornstarch.
8. Xylooligosaccharides – XOS
Xylooligosaccharides contains 2-10 xylose monomers. They are naturally found in dairy products, honey, bamboo shoots, and some fruits, and vegetables. Doses up to 12 gram per day are tolerable for artificially manufactured.
Best Prebiotic Foods to include in your diet
Natural Prebiotic Foods
Fruit, vegetables, cereals, and other edible plants are natural sources of carbohydrates constituting prebiotics. Some of them are:
- Green Banana, Banana Flower, and Banana Stem
- Bamboo shoots
- Artichokes, Turnips, Beetroot, Radish
- All yams including Elephant Yam – Jimikand
- Garlic, Onions, Leeks, Ginger, Chicory, Spring Onions, Asparagus
- Ladies Finger
- Oats, linseed, barley, and wheat.
- Psyllium Husk
- Potato with skin, Sweet Potato
- Lentils, Chick-peas, kidney-beans, lima beans, mung beans, green peas, black gram
- Guar Beans
Artificially produced Prebiotics
- Lactulose. Lactulose constitutes a significant part of produced oligosaccharides (40%).