Fibre and prebiotics are normally associated with bowel regularity but you may be surprised to learn how many health benefits a diet high in fibre and prebiotics provide. Fibre not only assists bowel regularity but has been shown to:
- reduce cholesterol
- support heart health
- aid in weight-loss through increasing satiety (reduce feelings of hunger)
- modulate blood glucose
- support immune function
Fibre is the indigestible parts of plant foods, a form of a carbohydrate that helps keep your gastro intestinal tract healthy. There are three types of fibre which have different functions and health benefits – soluble fibre, insoluble fibre and resistant starch. Resistant starch isn’t digested by the small intestine but assists the production of good bacteria in the large intestine, supporting a healthy bowel. Resistant starch can be found in foods including cooked rice, potato, under-cooked pasta and un-ripened bananas.
Prebiotics are an insoluble fibre that stimulate the growth of good bacteria, basically prebiotics are ÔÇÿfood for probiotics’. Prebiotics can be found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes; recent research in the health benefits of prebiotics in foods, in particular two fructo-oligosaccharide compounds have been identified as having very important prebiotic properties. These compounds are inulin and oligofructose nourish the beneficial micro-organisms in the gut, they occur naturally in over 36,000 plants and vegetables. Chicory root is a particularly beneficial prebiotic, artichokes, asparagus, leeks, onions and garlic are also good sources of prebiotics.
Prebiotics are fermented by good gut bacteria, particularly Bifidobacterium, one of the most clinically researched probiotic bacteria. Boosting the growth of bifidobacterium increases the good bacteria’s efficacy; Bifidobacterium has been shown to:
- Have an antibacterial effect on harmful bacteria
- Help with the production of the B-vitamins which supports energy
- Promote immunological attack against malignant cells, which may reduce the risk for colon cancer
Prebiotic research is revealing potential multiple health benefits, including modulation of the gut microbiota, improved mineral absorption, possible protection against colon cancer, improved blood glucose and insulin profiles, protection against intestinal infections and alterations in the progress of some inflammatory conditions. Emerging studies are also finding that prebiotics may also assist in calcium absorption, which increases bone-mineral density.
Fibers are not all equal in terms of the types and extent of health benefits they provide. Features such as solubility, fermentability, and viscosity are important determinants of the effect the fiber will have in the body. Recommended Daily fibre intake is 25-30g, this can be achieved by increasing your consumption of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Dieticians and gastroenterologists are researching the benefits of a ‘high fibre and high natural prebiotic diet’, because of the diversity of fibre’s beneficial effects in the body, it is important to consume fiber from a variety of sources. Could incorporating a prebiotic and higher fibre diet benefit you in acheiving better health?