Do You Eat Enough Prebiotics?

June 20, 2019 , ,

Prebiotics are a type of dietary fiber that is beneficial to one’s microbiota and gastrointestinal health by selectively promoting the growth of good bacteria. It should be noted that not all fibers are prebiotics. Here is a chart that summarizes the main sources of prebiotics.

Type of Food Sources of Prebiotics
Vegetables Garlic, onion, leak, asparagus, artichokes, chicory, beetroot, fennel, green peas, sweet peas, corn, cabbage, rhubarb, mushrooms
Legumes (beans) Chickpeas, lentils, red beans, soy beans, lima beans, mung beans
Fruits Apple, nectarine, peach, watermelon, grapefruit, pomegranate seeds, kiwi, dried fruits
Grains Barley, rye, wheat bran, whole wheat, oats, buckwheat
Nuts and seeds Cashews, pistachios, almonds, hazelnuts, flax and chia seeds
Other Breast milk, inulin, algae

If you are familiar with the low FODMAP* diet, you may have noticed that many foods rich in prebiotics are also high in FODMAP. This is because fructans and galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) are prebiotic fibers. The low FODMAP diet restricts the consumption of many foods that are rich in prebiotics. In the long term, these restrictions can negatively affect the gut microbiota by reducing the amount of good bacteria present in the gut. This is why it is recommended to reintroduce high FODMAP foods and to avoid following a low FODMAP diet in the long term. During the elimination phase of the low FODMAP diet, it is still useful to include some sources of prebiotics. Many foods rich in prebiotics can be low in FODMAP provided they do not exceed the recommended portion. Here are seven foods rich in prebiotics and low in FODMAP to incorporate regularly into your diet.

1) Buckwheat

Buckwheat kernels are low in FODMAP for up to a 1/8 cup (27g) serving, and buckwheat flour is low in FODMAP for up to a 2/3 cup (100g) serving. Soba noodles, made from a mixture of wheat and buckwheat, are low in FODMAP for up to a 1/3 cup (90g) serving. Buckwheat kernels and Soba noodles can be eaten as an accompaniment to a meal, and buckwheat flour can be used in a variety of recipes. Try our recipe for buckwheat pancakes.

2) Rhubarb

Photo: Max Pixel

Rhubarb is actually a vegetable and not a fruit. It is low in FODMAP for up to a 1 cup (150g) serving. Make sure you do not consume the leaves, which are toxic. Rhubarb stems can be used in various recipes. Try our recipe for ginger-flavoured rhubarb sorbet.

3) Cabbage

Red and regular cabbage are low in FODMAP for a serving up to ¾ cup (75g), while Savoy cabbage is low in FODMAPs for a serving up to ½ cup (40g). On the other hand, sauerkraut (fermented cabbage) is high in FODMAP. During the fermentation process, the bacteria feed on FODMAP, causing certain foods to become low in FODMAP once fermented. However, this is not the case with cabbage, because its fermentation produces mannitol, which is a FODMAP.

4) Banana

A medium-sized banana is low in FODMAP, provided that it is not very ripe (100g edible portion). If a banana is ripe you can only eat 35g. Dried bananas are low in FODMAP for a portion of up to 15 slices (30g). Try our recipe for low FODMAP banana bread.

5) Canned lentils

All dry legumes that need to be rehydrated and cooked are high in FODMAP. However, this is different when legumes are canned. Indeed, canned lentils are low in FODMAP for a serving up to ½ cup (75g). This is because some of the FODMAP that are in these legumes will migrate into the liquid (since FODMAP are water soluble). The end result is a decrease in the concentration of FODMAP as long as you are rinsing the canned lentils before consuming them and disposing of the liquid.

6) Oats

Oats are rich in prebiotic fibers and also in soluble fibers which can help bulk up stools and regulate intestinal transit. Oats are low in FODMAP for a serving up to ½ cup (about 52g). Try our recipe for quinoa and chia oatmeal.

7) Kiwi

Kiwis are low in FODMAP for a serving of up to 2 kiwis (150g) and could help decrease constipation. They are rich in vitamin C, K and E as well as in potassium and magnesium.

*FODMAPs are fermentable carbohydrates that are partly responsible for causing symptoms in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). For more info, read this article.


Kathryn Adel
Kathryn holds a Bachelor Degree in Nutrition as well as a Bachelor and a Master Degree in Kinesiology, all from Laval University. She is a Registered Dietitian and active member of the Ordre professionnel des Diététistes Nutritionnistes du Québec (ODNQ) and of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She holds the Monash University's certification for the FODMAP diet and IBS, and has considerable clinical experience in that area. She is also an accomplished athlete, having ran track and cross-country at a national level. Kathryn specializes in sports nutrition, weight loss, diabetes, as well as heart and gastrointestinal health.

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