Although our title might seem like a typo, we really are talking about “prebiotics,” not “probiotics.” A handy tip for remembering the difference between the two is to think of the “e” in “prebiotics” as the “energy” prebiotics provide to the “o” in “probiotics,” the gut’s healthy micro-“organisms.”1 Research on prebiotics is still emerging, but here’s what’s known so far:
- Prebiotics are naturally found in foods, such as garlic, lentils, oats, and almonds. To describe prebiotics in layman’s terms, prebiotics are fibers and natural sugars. Generally, people looking to increase their prebiotic intake should consume foods with high fiber content and eat nuts, fruits, seeds, legumes, and cereal grains.2
- Feeding the body prebiotics can help grow a healthy microbe population in the long-term. Friendly gut bacteria have the ability to decrease inflammation, stimulate the immune system, and lower blood pressure. They lower blood pressure by producing formate as they digest fiber from grains.3
- Having a diet based on fruits and vegetables results in a more diverse gut microbiome. American diets, high in sugar, fat, and processed food, disrupt the gut’s microbiome and can lead to absorption of excess calories.4
- Prebiotics have the potential to benefit the elderly, who have a narrower microbial spectrum.5
- Prebiotics could potentially impact the future of animal feeding, as well, as people search for alternatives to antibiotics. Use of prebiotics in animal feed is predicted to increase globally by 7.4% in 2019.6
Although awareness of prebiotics is not widespread, prebiotics are a segment of the nutrition industry to watch out for. Research has shown what we’ve known to be true for a long time: Bountiful benefits derive from a healthy, balanced diet.