Prebiotics: What They Are and Why You Need Them

By Jessica Hamlin

We hear about probiotics a lot—and now it seems they're in everything, from kombucha to granola, and even burritos.

Probiotics are bacteria that help your gut, which is a big deal. Your gut is sometimes called your “second brain,” and the health of your gut bacteria can impact your overall health.

But like Jerry Maguire, probiotics can’t be alone. They need prebiotics.

Prebiotics are non-digestible carbohydrates that feed the probiotics.

Some of the benefits of prebiotics include possible reduced risk of developing colorectal cancer, improved bone density, and feeling more full after meals, a nutritionist shared in Health magazine. That's in addition to all the physical and mental benefits of probiotics since prebiotics appear to help them flourish.

Get Some

So, how can you get some? Eat foods that are high in prebiotics (also called prebiotic fiber) such as:

  • Onions: Roast, sauté in a stir-fry, grill, or eat raw
  • Raw garlic: Chop it up and add to a salad, or make a simple dressing with garlic, olive oil and lemon juice
  • Under-ripe bananas: They won’t be sweet, but they could work in a smoothie with berries
  • Raw asparagus: Snack on it with some tasty hummus or dip
  • Oats: Overnight oats are a snap, or you could cook them and add your fave toppings.
  • Dandelion greens: Use in a salad or smoothie. Dandelion greens can also help detoxify the liver.
  • Fermented dairy products like yogurt and kefir are a “you complete me” food because they have live bacteria (probiotics) and as well as the fuel they need (prebiotics), according to the Mayo Clinic.

So remember: Feed your gut AND its bacteria.