10 Prebiotic Foods To Supercharge Your Immune System
A healthy gut is essential for optimal immune system functioning. Eating foods high in prebiotics is a great way to make sure your gut is healthy. So what are the best prebiotic foods to supercharge your immune system?
Certain foods are particularly high in prebiotics, and eating a diet rich in these kinds of foods will improve your gut health and your microbiome – in turn, strengthening your immune system and protecting you from getting sick. But what is a prebiotic, exactly? What are the positive effects of prebiotics? And how do prebiotics boost the immune system?
Read on as we dive into all these important questions and more.
Gut Health And The Immune System
Your immune system is your body’s defense against viruses, bacteria, and other harmful microorganisms. It works to stop you from getting sick by preventing pathogens from entering your body, and killing any that do manage to infiltrate.
Your immune system is made up of several systems, organs, tissues, cells, and substances, including:
- Gut bacteria
- White blood cells
- Complement system
- Lymphatic system (thymus, spleen, tonsils, lymph nodes, lymph vessels, bone marrow)
- Substances such as mucus and stomach acid
Diverse healthy bacteria in the gut makes up 70% of your immune system, so it’s easy to see why a healthy gut is so important for optimal immune function.
Image by Joshua Olsen on Unsplash: Do prebiotics boost the immune system? They sure do!
The Gut Microbiome
Your gut microbiome is the collection of all of the microbes in your gut. It consists of bacteria, fungi, and viruses. These microorganisms naturally live inside you and feed on each other, your body, and the food you eat. The makeup of the bacteria, fungi, and viruses that live in your gut massively affects your physical and mental health and wellbeing, as well as the functioning of your immune system.
To optimize your microbiome, you want to increase the number of beneficial microorganisms it contains and decrease its number of unhealthy microorganisms. You can do this by:
- Avoiding sugar, artificial sweeteners, and processed foods
- Eating fermented foods
- Supplementing with probiotics
- Avoiding antacid medications
- Eating a diverse diet, high in fiber and prebiotics
What Is A Prebiotic?
Prebiotics are nondigestible dietary fiber compounds found in foods that feed the beneficial microorganisms in your gut. This stimulates the growth and proliferation of these beneficial microorganisms.
The more beneficial microorganisms you have in your gut, the fewer unhealthy microorganisms and pathogens will be present. This means that a diet rich in prebiotics promotes a healthier gut microbiome balance.
Do Prebiotics Boost The Immune System?
Yes, eating prebiotics boosts your immune system! As we’ve established, the gut microbiome is a crucial component of the overall immune system. Many pathogens enter your gut and must be killed so that they don’t cause illness.
Prebiotics increase the population of beneficial microbes in your gut, thus strengthening the immune system. Prebiotics also stimulate gut-associated lymphoid tissue activity, which reduces the risk of diseases.
What Are The Positive Effects Of Prebiotics?
As well as promoting immune system health, prebiotics may have the following positive effects:
- Constipation relief
- Prevention of obesity
- Lowered cholesterol
- Improved mineral absorption
- Prevention of colorectal cancer
- Prevention of inflammatory bowel disease
Foods High In Prebiotics
Here’s our top 10 list of prebiotic foods to supercharge your immune system.
1. Dandelion greens
Dandelion greens are very high in the prebiotic fiber inulin, as well as in antioxidants. They have been shown to boost the immune system, increase good gut bacteria, have anti-inflammatory properties, and reduce constipation. Dandelion greens taste great in salads and in juices or smoothies.
Garlic contains high levels of prebiotic inulin fiber and fructooligosaccharides. These prebiotic compounds support the proliferation of beneficial gut bacteria. Garlic also contains antioxidants, vitamin C, and selenium. Its immune system-boosting powers are maximized when you eat it raw, but it’s also very good for you when cooked.
Apples are high in fiber, antioxidants, and vitamin C. The fiber in apples includes pectin, which is a prebiotic fiber that feeds the beneficial microorganisms in your gut and helps to improve the functioning of your immune system.
4. Leafy greens
Leafy greens, such as kale, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts, are high in prebiotic fiber, vitamin C, various B vitamins, vitamin K, and folate. Research suggests that these greens can increase the growth and proliferation of beneficial gut bacteria and improve your immune system.
Lentils contain large amounts of immune system–strengthening prebiotics. They contain 16 grams of fiber per cup, as well as resistant starch, which cannot be digested by the small intestine and is fermented by gut bacteria. Lentils are also high in manganese, potassium, folate, and iron.
Image by Frédéric Dupont on Unsplash: What are the positive effects of prebiotics?
Chicory is a great source of prebiotics and is also very high in antioxidants. Research has found that chicory contains large amounts of prebiotic inulin fiber and fructooligosaccharides, which can promote the proliferation of beneficial gut bacteria and strengthen your immune system.
Delicious raw or cooked, onions are rich in prebiotics, such as inulin fiber and fructooligosaccharides, and also in antioxidants and flavonoids. All of these compounds improve immune system function.
8. Jerusalem artichokes
Jerusalem artichokes are rich in prebiotic inulin fiber, as well as vitamins and antioxidants. Jerusalem artichokes can be eaten raw or cooked and improve immune system functioning by providing lots of nourishment to the beneficial microorganisms in your gut.
Wholegrains, such as whole oats, brown rice, wholegrain bread, and wholegrain pasta, contain a lot of prebiotic fiber. Whole oats, in particular, are an excellent source of prebiotic dietary fiber and are also high in resistant starch. Oats can be cooked into porridge, used raw as a basis for muesli, or included in smoothies.
Bananas are high in fructooligosaccharides. Their prebiotic benefits are most prominent when they're underripe (i.e. a little green). They make an excellent prebiotic-rich breakfast option, especially when combined with oats and apples!
Featured image by Skitterphoto on Pexels
Leave A Comments