We hear a good bit about probiotic rich (fermented) foods, don’t we? They’re all the rage right now, along with prebiotics which are just as important. When choosing meals, it’s important to choose both foods with good bacteria (probiotic-rich foods), which foods such as miso, coconut water kefir, dairy-free yogurts, raw cacao, kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh and other choices are a great place to start, but these foods aren’t the only thing your gut needs for good health. It’s also a smart choice to choose foods that contain certain fibers and natural sugars that feed those good bacteria, known as prebiotics.
Prebiotic foods are like fuel for good bacteria. They have certain fibrous carbohydrates that nourish the good bacteria to help it to grow. This process helps build a healthy microbiome, which is our defense system against toxins we encounter from animal products, the environment, poor quality tap-water, and common yeast and viruses or other types of fungi.
Nature gave us quite the gift when it comes to prebiotic foods because there are many that have just the right “ingredients” to improve gut function without us having to do anything else but eat them! You can pair them with other probiotic foods for an even better result, or just include several of them throughout the day separately from your probiotic-rich foods. If you don’t currently eat probiotic-rich foods or don’t like them, then consider choosing a supplement as another option. (Choose a dairy-free option as best as possible.)
Top Most Nutrient-Dense Prebiotic Foods
Asparagus is packed with fiber, folate and other B vitamins, and even have 4 grams of protein per 8 stalks. Eat it grilled, sauteed, raw, or even sneak it in your green smoothie if you’re super brave. It has a naturally sweet taste and is also a natural diuretic to beat bloating.
Almost everyone loves bananas, including your gut! Bananas both soothe the gut membrane and also contain natural fibers that promote good bacteria growth. This is one reason they may cause some mild rumbling. For easier digestion, be sure that you choose riper bananas instead of yellowish greenish bananas. Those may be higher in starch and harder to digest, while the spotted ones seem to digest a bit easier, despite being higher in natural sugars. All bananas are great sources of potassium B vitamins, and even offer Vitamin C as well. Use them frozen in smoothies, cream them into a raw pie or cake, or just snack on them raw before your next workout.
The cheapest, most delicious way to flavor your food (and a wonderfully natural one) is also great for your digestion! Onions contain a natural source of inulin which the gut uses to clean house and up the good bacteria during the process. Onions are also packed with antioxidants and can be used in any savory recipe you choose. If raw onions give you indigestion, give yours a light saute or boil before using to break down some of the sugars. See these tips for choosing the best onion for your recipes.
Garlic is a rich source of inulin as well as a great antibacterial agent. It packs two punches in one by kicking out the bad guys and feeding the good guys. Garlic is a cheap way to flavor your foods and also a great source of Vitamin B6 to aid in metabolism and nervous system health. It’s a real superfood your whole body loves! Try it in a veggie stir-fry, hummus, or saute into your next batch of rice or soup.
Cabbage is a versatile, cheap prebiotic food you can do almost anything with. Its natural prebiotics are the reason it is used in sauerkraut and kimchi as the base. Feel free to use raw cabbage wraps for sandwiches, make cabbage soup, or make a healthy dairy-free coleslaw if you wish. Cabbage is also packed with B vitamins, alkalizing minerals, and offers up a good source of Vitamin C.
Known as a strong digestive booster, beans are packed with oligosaccharides that feed good gut bacteria (which is one reason they’re problematic for some). Though the gurgling is a good sign, it can be a little potent for new bean eaters. Soak your beans overnight and cook them extremely well (almost overdone if you need to), or add them slowly into your diet a day so your body can adapt. Beans are a good source of potassium, protein, and high in fiber so work them into your diet if you can, but if not, choose some legumes (below) instead.
A bit easier to digest than beans, but just as nutritious, legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, and green peas are all excellent choices of protein, iron, and B vitamins. They’re filled with just the right amount of fiber and natural sugars to boost good gut bacteria, but a bit lighter on the stomach. For easier digestion, soak your lentils, or use presoaked canned (BPA-free) versions instead. Red lentils are especially thin and easier to digest than other varieties and also a bit sweeter, so you may not need to soak them. Frozen peas are also a good alternative to raw peas and don’t need to be soaked either. Edamame and other legumes are also great choices.
Whether it be oat, wheat, rice or another type of bran, pure bran is full of insoluble fiber that feeds good gut bacteria. It helps regularity and also reduces cholesterol. Be sure to choose organic bran when possible to avoid genetically modified grains or go with a company that’s certified non-GMO. Oat bran lends a particularly awesome creamy texture to normal oatmeal, but with all grains, be sure you choose mostly whole varieties since the bran is only part of the entire grain. Bran can be added to muffin recipes, porridge, or used in healthy cookie recipes for a creamy, nutty, and fibrous texture.
Artichokes are fantastic for your gut! They’re packed with fiber and very low in net carbohydrates. This makes them lower on the glycemic index and helpful for your blood sugar. If you choose canned artichoke hearts for ease of use (such as in salads and soups), go with a BPA-free version when possible. Whole artichokes and canned artichoke hearts can both be used in various recipes and are remarkable detox foods.
Leeks are also another food to add to your list of healthy flavoring options. A member of the onion family, leeks are versatile and easy to cook with, despite looking intimidating. Leeks are commonly used in soups and stocks but can also be cut and sauteed in stir-fries as well. They’re rich in the same benefits as onions though a bit milder in taste and higher in chlorophyll.
Root veggies pack a good bit of soluble fiber that your gut loves. Sweet potatoes, squash, wild yams, jicama, beets, carrots, turnips, parsnips, and other root veggies are all great choices. Cook them however you like and enjoy their easy-to-digest, naturally cleansing nature.
Apples are fantastic foods for your heart and brain due to their antioxidant content, but their natural pectin fiber is the reason they’re so great for your gut. Pectin feeds good bacteria and apples are also a good source of inulin and natural FOS (a beneficial type of sugar that feeds the gut). Apples are also good for keeping you full and warding off high cholesterol. Choose Granny Smith if you’re watching your sugar intake and always choose organic since apples are high on the Dirty Dozen list of pesticide-laden fruits and veggies.
More Tummy Tips:
Remember to include a variety of produce such as leafy greens broccoli, berries, celery, and a variety of whole grains, nuts, beans, legumes, and seeds in your diet as much as possible. These all contain fibers that will also feed the gut and assist in digestion. Choose the options that work best for you and expand to newer options as your body allows.
We also highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 15,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to ten new recipes per day. Check it out!