What Are Prebiotics and How Can We Incorporate Them in Our Diet?

By Eli Brecher | Jan 31, 2024 | 3 Min Read

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Prebiotics are dietary fibre that feed the bacteria in our gut microbiome. They are not broken down in digestion and make it all the way to your colon, where they metabolise and ferment in order to survive. This process creates a variety of byproducts which can help support our health, such as short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which provide energy to cells, help support our immune system and reduce inflammation. It’s important to note that different microorganisms use different prebiotics, so not every prebiotic gives you the same effect.

Research into our gut microbiome is ongoing so it is likely that we don’t yet know all the benefits of prebiotics, but a few things that we do know are that they…


  • Help regulate bowel movements
  • Produce neurotransmitters that help your gut and brain trigger mood changes and other processes
  • Stimulate the production of appetite and fullness hormones
  • Supporting the immune system and the anti-inflammatory responses
  • Enhancing the production of good bacteria while reducing harmful bacteria
  • Help your bones absorb calcium and phosphorus which can improve bone density
Prebiotic-rich foods are usually high in certain types of fibre known as fermentable soluble fibre. The three most common are:
Like fibre, resistant starches are not digested and end up as a food source for microorganisms in your gut. When resistant starches are broken down, they produce a SCFA called butyrate which helps with water and electrolyte absorption, supports immune system function and is anti-inflammatory.
Inulin is a prebiotic fibre that can help you feel fuller for longer, helping us with overeating and supporting regular and formed bowel movements. It can also help lower ‘bad’ cholesterol, stabilise blood sugar and support the growth and maintenance of good bacterial populations in your gut.
Pectin is contained in a lot of fruits, and due to its gel-like consistency, is often used in food production to create jams and jellies. It has antioxidant properties, may help enhance the cells in your intestinal lining and promotes microbial diversity in the gut.

All prebiotics originate from plant sources! So if you consume a balanced diet full of fruit and vegetables, you’re probably eating a lot of prebiotics already.


Here are 7 great sources and a bit about why they’re so good for you:


1.      Chicory root

Approximately 68% of chicory root fibre comes from the prebiotic fibre inulin which improves digestion, gut transit and helps control blood glucose levels.


2.      Dandelion greens

They are packed with fibre including inulin, which helps nourish your gut microbiota.


3.      Garlic

Garlic promotes the growth of Bifidobacterium, and prevents pathogenic bacteria growing.


It has anti-tumour properties and helps to lower blood glucose and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.


4.      Onion

They are rich in inulin and fructo-oligosaccharides, which help support your immune system and have antioxidant properties.


5.      Bananas

Unripe, slightly green bananas have plenty of resistant starch, which has prebiotic effects.


6.      Apples

These are rich in pectin, a soluble fibre, that can promote a healthy gut as it increases the production of SCFAs.


7.      Flaxseeds

These are rich in prebiotics, encourage regular bowel movements and contain phenolic antioxidants.


Top Tip: The best way to improve your consumption of prebiotics is to build up slowly – prebiotics create gas in your gut so eating too many can create uncomfortable symptoms! Gradual introduction will help prevent this and improve your tolerance over time.

Prebiotics offer a range of different health benefits and our knowledge of these is ever-growing. A healthy and balanced diet should include a range of plant sources, and naturally this would include an abundance of prebiotics without you even knowing it! However, if you want to give your gut microbiome a little extra support, focus on increasing your intake of the foods above. Build up slowly, prioritise a diet-first approach before considering supplements and focus on embracing food diversity.
Curious about enhancing your gut health? You can explore more insights and tips on our Nutrition Hub – your ultimate resource for nutrition wisdom and wellness.
The author of this article is gut health expert and registered nutritionist Eli Brecher (ANutr), who uses her expertise in the gut microbiome to build healthier habits. You can find more of Eli’s articles and her delicious recipes on our Nutrition Hub.