First of all, let’s get one thing straight, prebiotics and probiotics are not the same. Often my clients mix up the two terms or think they are equal. Prebiotics are non-digestible, soluble dietary fibre found in certain foods and when consumed, provide a beneficial environment in the gut for good bacteria (including probiotics) to flourish. Probiotics are live microorganisms which, when consumed in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host (you).

The Skinny on Prebiotics
I describe prebiotics as essential fertilizers that promote a favourable ecosystem in the gut. Prebiotics are most commonly known as fructooligosaccharides (FOS). They are found in a wide range of vegetables, fruits, and grains. Beyond supporting probiotics in the gut, FOS have been shown to increase immune health, improve feelings of satiety, reduce the risk of digestive cancers, and increase gut transit time (1, 2).

What is Your Gut Telling You?
Do you need more information before forming a gut opinion about prebiotics? If yes, you’re not alone. Over the past decade, dietitians and gastroenterologists have been making exciting discoveries about the gut’s relationship to immune health, as well as to overall mind-body wellbeing. Our gut is influenced by the foods and beverages we eat (and over eat), the amount of stress we encounter, the quantity of water we consume, how much exercise we do, and any toxins that enter our bodies. With over 10 times the number of bacterial cells inside of us as human cells (with most in the gut!); we still have plenty to research.

Canadian Prairie Garden’s Top Three Prebiotic Purees

We may not know everything about the gut, but we do know that prebiotic foods are excellent fuel for probiotics to promote gut health. Let’s explore CPG’s three prebiotic-rich purees: 1) asparagus; 2) chickpeas and 3) onions. Not only are they rich in prebiotics, they contain other beneficial fibre, vitamins and minerals, and fuel for the entire body.

1. Asparagus Puree
Asparagus is the quintessential spring vegetable with an outstanding nutrition profile. In addition to fibre, it’s rich in potassium, folic acid, vitamin B6, and thiamine. CPG has clients using their Prairie Garden Asparagus Puree in soups, sauces, and risottos on their spring and summer menus.

2. Chickpea Puree
Chickpeas are gluten-free, environmentally friendly, nutritious powerhouses. They’re filled with just the right amount of fibre and natural sugars to contribute to a healthy gut. And pureed chickpeas aren’t just for hummus anymore. CPG’s clients are using them in delicious casseroles and veggie burgers.

3. Onion Puree
Most people enjoy onions for the taste and crunch, but in addition to fibre, onions serve up important essential vitamins and minerals to support immune health. CPG’s onion puree is used as one of the three important ingredients in the mirepoix, which is the starting flavour for many soups, stews, sauces, and braises.

Final Thoughts
Including prebiotic foods in your diet not only provides you with optimal nutrition, they provide your ecosystem with favourable fuel to promote and support gut and immune health. So follow your gut and get started today adding prebiotic-rich foods to your products and menus.

References
1. Bornet FR, Brouns F. Immune-stimulating and gut health-promoting properties of short-chain fructo-oligosaccharides. Nutr Rev. 2002; 60:326-334.
2. Slavin, J. Fiber and Prebiotics: Mechanisms and Health Benefits. Nutrients. 2013; 5:1417-1435.

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Jane Dummer, RD (www.janedummer.com), known as the "Pod to Plate" Food Consultant, collaborates with the food and nutrition industry across North America.