Prebiotics are a form of dietary fiber that feed the “friendly” bacteria in your gut.
This allows your gut bacteria to produce nutrients for your colon cells, which leads to a healthier digestive system (
These fatty acids can be absorbed into your bloodstream and improve metabolic health (
However, prebiotics shouldn’t be confused with probiotics.
Probiotics are live bacteria found in certain foods or supplements. To learn more about the difference between prebiotics and probiotics, read this article.
Read on to explore 19 healthy prebiotic foods to add to your grocery list.
Chicory root comes from a flowering plant in the dandelion family. It’s popular for its coffee-like flavor and has historically been used in cooking and medicine.
It’s also a great source of prebiotics.
It may also help prevent diabetes by raising levels of adiponectin, a protein that helps control blood glucose levels (
Chicory root is often used as a caffeine-free coffee replacement. Its inulin fiber promotes friendly gut bacteria, reduces constipation, and can help control glucose levels.
The inulin fiber in dandelion greens reduces constipation, increases friendly bacteria in your gut, and boosts your immune system (
Dandelion greens are a fiber-rich substitute for greens in your salad. They increase the friendly bacteria in your gut, reduce constipation, and boost your immune system.
The Jerusalem artichoke — also known as the sunroot, sunchoke, or earth apple — is part of the sunflower family and has great health benefits.
Known for its sunflower-like appearance, the vegetable provides about 2 grams of inulin-rich dietary fiber per 100 grams (
Inulin helps increase the friendly bacteria in your colon, promoting greater digestive health (16). It can also aid in the absorption of minerals in your large intestine.
Adding Jerusalem artichokes to your diet may help strengthen your immune system, lower cholesterol, and even prevent certain metabolic disorders (
The Jerusalem artichoke is also high in thiamin, or vitamin B1. Thiamin deficiency can lead to fatigue and abnormal muscle function (
Jerusalem artichoke, or sunroot, can be eaten cooked or raw. It helps boost your immune system and prevent metabolic disease.
Garlic acts as a prebiotic by promoting the growth of beneficial Bifidobacteria in the gut. It also helps prevent disease-promoting bacteria from growing (20).
Research shows that different compounds in garlic reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, have anti-tumor effects, and lower blood glucose levels (
According to an animal study, garlic’s anti-inflammatory properties may even protect against the effects of asthma (
Garlic is a tasty herb with prebiotic benefits. It is proven to help promote good bacteria and prevent harmful bacteria from growing.
Onions are rich in inulin and FOS, which can help boost your immune system, provide fuel for your gut bacteria, and improve digestion.
Leeks come from the same family as onions and garlic, and they offer similar health benefits.
Leeks are nutrient dense, which means they’re low in calories but high in vitamins and minerals. Thanks to their inulin content, leeks promote healthy gut bacteria and help break down fat (28).
Leeks are a nutrient-dense vegetable often used in cooking for their distinct flavor. They are high in prebiotic inulin fiber and vitamin K.
Asparagus is a popular vegetable and another great source of prebiotics.
The nutritious vegetable naturally contains inulin, which can improve your digestive health and help your body maintain optimum levels of glucose and insulin (33).
Inulin is also a soluble fiber, which feeds the friendly bacteria in the gut, such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus (
Asparagus is a popular vegetable rich in prebiotic fiber and antioxidants. It promotes healthy gut bacteria and may help prevent certain cancers.
Bananas are more than a delicious fruit: They’re rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and they contain small amounts of inulin.
Plus, one medium-sized banana (about 7 to 8 inches long) is only 105 calories and contains approximately 3 grams of fiber and 422 mg of potassium (
Bananas are rich in fiber. They also contain vitamins, minerals, and small amounts of inulin.
One study found that barley beta-glucan improved metabolism in mice through both suppression of appetite and improvement of insulin sensitivity (
Barley is high in beta-glucan fiber, which promotes healthy bacteria in the gut. It can also lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
Whole oats are a healthy grain with prebiotic benefits. They contain large amounts of beta-glucan fiber, as well as some resistant starch.
- healthy gut bacteria
- lower LDL (bad) cholesterol
- better blood sugar control
- reduced cancer risk
Whole oats are a grain rich in beta-glucan fiber. They increase healthy gut bacteria, improve blood sugar control, and may reduce cancer risk.
A 2016 study found that pectin from apples could promote healthy gut microbiota, decrease inflammation, and suppress weight gain and fat accumulation in rats with obesity (
More research is needed to fully explore the benefits of pectin in humans.
Apples are rich in pectin fiber. Pectin promotes healthy gut bacteria and helps decrease harmful bacteria.
Konjac root, also known as elephant yam, is a tuber — or a vegetable grown underground, like the potato.
The plant has been used for centuries in Asia as food and medicine, and it’s often used as a dietary supplement for its health benefits.
Konjac glucomannan promotes the growth of friendly bacteria in your colon and may help relieve constipation (
You can consume it in the form of foods made with the konjac root, such as shirataki noodles. You can also take glucomannan supplements.
The glucomannan fiber found in konjac root helps promote friendly gut bacteria, reduces constipation, and helps with weight loss. It can be consumed in foods made with the konjac root, like shirataki noodles.
Cocoa beans are actually seeds from the Theobrama cacao tree. Not only are they used to make chocolate, but they’re delicious and healthy.
Cocoa powder, created by crushing cocoa beans and removing the fat or coca butter, makes it easy to add cocoa to oatmeal, smoothies, yogurt, and other recipes.
Cocoa and its products are rich sources of polyphenols such as flavanols, which exert antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects (
These compounds also help grow beneficial gut bacteria while reducing the growth of harmful bacteria (
While research shows that cocoa products can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, it’s important to take this information with a grain of salt — most chocolate products still contain large amounts of sugar (
Cocoa is a tasty prebiotic food. It contains flavanols that increase healthy gut bacteria while reducing harmful bacteria.
Burdock root is a vegetable commonly used in Japan and has proven health benefits.
It contains about 1.8 grams of fiber per 100 grams (3.5 ounces) (
Burdock root is rich in inulin and FOS, which support the growth of healthy bacteria in the digestive tract.
Burdock root also contains phenolic compounds, which gives them their antioxidant properties (64).
Burdock root is widely consumed in Japan. It contains fiber and inulin, which supports the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut.
Flaxseeds are incredibly healthy. They’re also a great source of prebiotics.
Because they contain phenolic antioxidants, flaxseeds also have anticancer and antioxidant properties and help regulate blood sugar levels (
The fiber in flaxseeds promotes regular bowel movements, lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol, and reduces the amount of fat you digest and absorb.
Yacon root is a vegetable very similar to sweet potatoes that is rich in fiber.
It is particularly rich in prebiotic FOS and inulin.
- improve gut bacteria
- reduce constipation
- enhance the immune system
- improve mineral absorption
- regulate blood fats
Yacon root is rich in inulin and FOS, which makes it great at promoting digestive health, improving mineral absorption, and enhancing your immune system.
Jicama root is low in calories and high in fiber, including the prebiotic fiber inulin.
Jicama root is low in calories but rich in inulin. It can improve your digestive health, help control blood sugar levels, and strengthen your immune system.
Wheat bran is the outer layer of the whole wheat grain. It’s an excellent source of prebiotics. It also contains a special type of fiber made of arabinoxylan oligosaccharides (AXOS).
One study in healthy adults found that increased wheat bran consumption over 3 weeks led to an increase in Bifidobacteria counts, compared with a control group (80).
Wheat bran is rich in AXOS, a type of fiber that has been shown to increase healthy gut bacteria and reduce digestive problems.
Seaweed is a form of marine algae with surprising health benefits.
The versatile food is rich in prebiotics and can be used in dishes like sushi rolls, soups and stews, salads, supplements, and smoothies.
Seaweed is rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and polysaccharides, which play a role in benefitting the immune system (
Lab studies have shown that polysaccharides found in seaweed can increase the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFA), which nourish the cells lining your gut (
More human research is needed to explore the full benefits of seaweed.
Seaweed is a great source of prebiotic fiber. It can increase the population of friendly bacteria, block the growth of harmful bacteria, and enhance immune function.
Prebiotic foods are high in special types of fiber that support digestive health.
They promote the increase of friendly bacteria in the gut, help with various digestive problems, and even boost your immune system.
Prebiotic foods have also been shown to improve metabolic health and even help prevent certain diseases.
Since fiber content of these foods may be altered during cooking, try to consume them raw rather than cooked to gain the full health benefits.
With a variety of options available, you can take your time to find the best prebiotic foods for yourself and your gut.