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Is Prebiotic Fiber Something I Should Be Worrying About?

If you eat your fruits and veggies like you’re supposed to, then you’re probably just fine

Just as we’ve hit full ubiquity with probiotics to the point where there’s even probiotic alcohol, Big Wellness has to throw another term our way. Apparently, in addition to probiotics, there’s also something called “prebiotics” we might want to be thinking about. Or, maybe not — unlike probiotics, which might see you having to go out of your way to eat yogurt or drink kombucha to consume, prebiotics are in a ton of foods you probably eat on a regular basis, anyway. 

But what the heck even are they?

While probiotics are actual live bacteria and yeasts that your stomach uses to digest food, prebiotics are basically like the food that good bacteria needs to grow. More specifically, prebiotics are forms of fiber and natural sugar that help stimulate the bacteria in the gut. If you’ve got chronic tummy troubles, it might be worth thinking about. 

Fortunately, having prebiotics in your diet isn’t all that hard to do. Some examples of prebiotic foods include onions, chickpeas, bananas and oats. All of these are pretty basic, affordable and vegan-friendly foods that are easy to incorporate into your daily meals. Several other vegetables closely related to onions like garlic, leeks and shallots are high in prebiotic content, too. Bran cereal, watermelon and even baked beans are also good choices, according to Medical News Today.

If you eat a diverse diet containing whole, natural foods, you’re probably already getting an adequate amount of prebiotics. There’s not yet any evidence that the average person should need to supplement their prebiotic intake, though there’s also not yet any evidence that there’s much risk in doing so, either. Unless you have specific medical conditions that require you to pay close attention to your diet, like diabetes, or have issues with digestion, you can probably get away with freeing your brain of thoughts of prebiotics entirely. If you’re in the former camp, though, definitely consult with your doctor or dietician. Because prebiotics can cause rapid fermentation in the stomach, people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome can experience an uptick in symptoms after consuming prebiotic foods. 

People without IBS, though, can probably just continue to regularly eat oats and bananas and go about their lives without ever seriously thinking of prebiotics again.