Since I mentioned that my jicama slaw is high in a prebiotic, I thought I should talk a bit about prebiotics, and how they are different from (and similar to) probiotics.

A prebiotic is a nutrient that helps feed the “good” bacteria in our digestive systems. Prebiotics are “nondigestible” carbohydrates, which means they pass through our digestive system intact without breaking down or providing us any specific nutrition. Fiber is a general term for nondigestible carbohydrate, and while not all fibers are also prebiotics, some specific types are.

Studies have shown that consuming prebiotics can change the composition of the bacteria in your digestive system, increasing the number of good bacteria compared to bad bacteria. This has shown promising effects similar to those of consuming probiotics for people with irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease, although research is not conclusive yet.

Fructooligosaccharides (FOS), galactooligosaccharides (GOS), and inulin are the most widely known prebiotics. These can be found in acacia gum (gum arabic), beans, chicory root, Jerusalem artichokes, garlic, jicama, raw oats, and unrefined wheat or barley.

If you are trying to increase your prebiotic intake, but don’t want to consume large amounts of the above foods (which is understandable), look for high fiber commercial products with inulin or chicory root extract in the list of ingredients. Some examples include Fiber One, Kashi GOLEAN, some Special K Protein Bars, LUNA Fiber, and Fiber Plus products.

If you decide to start introducing these products into your diet, make sure to do so gradually and to drink plenty of water. Changing your fiber intake too much and too quickly can actually make your stomach problems worse, not better.

Happy eating!

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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