WHAT WE EAT not only has a direct impact on our body, it also makes a big difference to the microbes that live in our intestines. To keep our gut healthy, we need to eat prebiotic foods to help our good gut bacteria to thrive. Prebiotics are beneficial for the functioning of our gut microbes.

What are some prebiotic foods you can eat and which ones are best for your gut health? Here are five common prebiotic foods to feed your good gut bacteria: 

GARLIC. Multiple studies have shown that garlic can have a wide-ranging impact on our bodies due to its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and lipid-lowering properties. Regular consumption of garlic may help to prevent chronic conditions such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and type 2 diabetes.

ONIONS. Onions possess antioxidant, antimicrobial, anticholesterolemic and anticancer properties. They may also help to prevent and treat metabolic problems. 

Similar to garlic, onions are rich in inulin and fructo-oligosaccharides. They also contain multiple organosulfur compounds (OSCs) that have been shown to exert a positive effect on gastrointestinal health and the immune system. 

BANANAS. Bananas contain several powerful antioxidant compounds, including phenolics, carotenoids and phytosterols, which may help to reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular problems and chronic degenerative conditions. They are also high in resistant starch, a type of prebiotic particularly beneficial to colon health. Unripe (green) bananas are high in this compound, with studies suggesting that eating green bananas can result in improved insulin metabolism, improved weight control and reduced severity of complications stemming from diabetes. 

APPLES. Multiple studies have linked the consumption of apples with a reduced risk of developing cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer, type 2 diabetes and asthma. 

Apples provide a substantial dose of prebiotics. They are particularly rich in pectin, a form of carbohydrate that humans are unable to digest. When these compounds reach the intestines, gut microbes use them to produce short-chain fatty acids. These can help to rebalance the gut microbiota, decrease inflammation and improve the functioning of the immune system. But remember to leave the skin on, because this is where a lot of fiber is stored.

OATS. Oats contain a significant amount of Beta glucans, which have been reported to lower cholesterol levels, significantly change the gut microbiota composition and increase the production of short-chain fatty acids. Beta glucans have also been shown to have a beneficial role in combating insulin resistance, hypertension, and obesity. 

Thus, knowing how to feed our good gut bacteria can make a big difference to our health and wellbeing. For many people, eating a balanced diet with  enough prebiotics will be sufficient to maintain good digestive health. But if you struggle with severe gastrointestinal issues, it may be a good idea to get a personal dietary advice. A shout-out to VSU’s foremost environmentalist, Dr. Paciencia Po Milan, whose birthday is on the 1st day of May. By Manny Palomar, PhD (EV Mail May 1-7, 2023 issue)