(BPT) - As health-conscious people worldwide are understanding more about how their digestive processes make them feel, they’re turning to prebiotic foods to improve their well-being.
Prebiotics, not to be confused with probiotics, are food compounds that boost the productivity of the 300 to 400 varieties of healthy bacteria and fungi located in your gut. While probiotics are live bacteria found in fermented foods such as yogurt, prebiotics are non-living substances found only in plant-based fiber — specifically, unrefined whole grains — that act as food for the probiotics.
The bottom line? Maintaining quality prebiotic fiber in your diet can improve everything from your physical health to your weight management to your daily mood. And these days, getting your daily dose can now be something to look forward to at breakfast time, thanks to health-conscious companies like Barley+ and its deliciously crafted line of enriched bars and muesli.
Right now, fewer than 3 percent of Americans get the minimum fiber intake (31.5 grams) recommended for their health, partly due to the popularity of low-carb diets that exclude important nutrients. If you’re ready to get started with a healthier intake of prebiotics in the new year, consider these key facts about how such a change may improve your life.
* Prebiotic foods help fight chronic diseases. Research shows eating more whole grains reduces our risk of chronic diseases like type-2 diabetes and heart disease. Getting enough dietary fiber can also help reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and high blood sugar, reports Nutritionfacts.org.
* Benefits can be mental or emotional. Thanks to the link between our guts and central nervous systems, scientists believe maintaining a diverse mix of good gut bacteria can positively impact our brain functions, cognition and behaviors, effectively reducing stress, anxiety and/or depression.
* Not all fiber is created equal. Unrefined whole grains such as white bread, white rice, pasta or corn flakes may have other nutritional benefits, but gut-powering prebiotics are only found in high-quality unrefined whole grains. Those same kinds of foods are also high in the resistant starch that initially resists digestion for the purpose of feeding valuable bacteria, rejuvenating cells and promoting large bowel function.
* Breakfast is an ideal time to get your prebiotics. Forward-thinking food companies such as Barley+ offer great-tasting, filling, convenient-to-eat breakfast foods such as Maple & Nut Toasted Muesli and Almond & Cranberry Bars that let you grab your daily prebiotics on the go — and get started powering good gut germs first thing in the morning.
* Fiber can be a great weight-loss tool. Because our bodies can’t effectively digest and break down fiber, fiber-rich foods contain relatively few calories even as they create a sense of fullness. Further, their chewy or crunchy textures encourage us to eat slower so our brains can process a better sense of fullness. Insoluble and soluble fiber both matter. Contrary to popular belief, the insoluble kind of fiber that keeps you regular is not the only kind important to your health. Foods containing soluble fiber (oats, peas, beans, apples, barley, etc.) go beyond that function to also fuel helpful gut bacteria.