What are prebiotics?

Prebiotics are the non-digestible fibre components of food that stimulate the growth of good bacteria in the gut. However, not all fibre is prebiotic. To be classified as a prebiotic, the fibre must pass through the gastrointestinal tract undigested and stimulate the growth and/or activity of certain ‘good’ bacteria in the large intestine.

These good bacteria are often referred to as probiotics, which make up the unique gut microbiome.  Prebiotics act as food for these bacteria and help them to grow and flourish, which in turn provide beneficial effects in the body.  When the good bacteria are dominant in the gut, they help to establish an environment that nourishes the cells that line the gut wall. This is known as the ‘prebiotic effect’.

Which foods contain prebiotics?

Dietary fibres classified as having high prebiotic effects includes inulin, fructo-oligosaccharides (fructans, FOS) and galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS). These include a range of foods such as onions, artichokes, legumes, asparagus, some fruits and nuts, as well as whole grains. Some foods such as BARLEYMaxTM whole grain are high in a specific type of prebiotic fibre called resistant starch. Besides providing a fuel source for the good gut bacteria, one unique benefit of resistant starch is that when the bacteria ferment this prebiotic fibre, they produce butyrate as a by-product. Butyrate is a short chain fatty acid that has a protective effect on the gut cells and can help to prevent colon cancer. BARLEYMaxTM is a 100% natural whole grain that has four times the amount of resistant starch compared to most other grains.

 

How much prebiotic fibre is needed for gut health?

The National Health and Medical Research Council recommend that women and men consume at least 25g and 30g of fibre per day, respectively. Despite these recommendations, many Australians do not eat enough fibre. Whilst there are no set guidelines for the recommended daily I take of prebiotic fibre, by eating a diet high in whole grains and foods that are good sources of prebiotic fibre, you can help ensure that you provide the much-needed prebiotic fuel to help support a healthy gut microbiome.