Foods with prebiotics help promote healthy bacteria growth in the digestive system, and many types of fruits and vegetables are included in this food group. Bananas, strawberries, and lentils are a few common foods that help keep the digestive system in balance. When harmful bacteria in the intestinal tract outnumber the healthy bacteria, digestive problems may occur. Foods with prebiotics work in conjunction with probiotics to help stimulate the production of flora, the "good" bacteria that naturally occurs in the intestinal tract. One of the most significant sources of prebiotics is breast milk.
Although there are many naturally occurring foods with prebiotics, breast milk can offer many benefits at the earliest stage of an infant's life. Human breast milk contains oligosaccharides, a key component of prebiotics. These prebiotics are resistant to the harsh acidic environment of the intestinal tract, and allow healthy bacteria to flourish in the digestive system. The naturally occurring prebiotics found in breast milk can help to promote the growth of bifidobacteria and lactobacilli, which are strains of bacteria vital to healthy digestion. Infants can receive the benefits of healthy microflora from consuming the prebiotics found in breast milk.
Many adults with digestive problems or inflammation of the bowel are often deficient in healthy bacteria. This may occur from over-usage of antibiotics, stress, or a poor diet. Consuming foods with prebiotics can replace harmful bacteria with beneficial strains. Healthy bacteria are also known to help support the body's immune system.
The best vegetable source of prebiotics are asparagus and artichokes. Green beans are another good source. Adding leeks to various recipes can help support a healthy digestive system, as this vegetable also contains natural prebiotics.
Garlic and onions contain oligosaccharides, which occur naturally in prebiotic substances. Soybeans and soy products are other common foods with prebiotics. Tomatoes contain amounts of prebiotics as well. Significant amounts of prebiotic substances can be found in unrefined barley.
Basically, any food that contains fiber will have prebiotic benefits. Consuming fiber-enriched foods, such as most fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, can encourage the production of flora in the digestive system. Prebiotics also help probiotic supplements become more effective.
People who do not receive adequate amounts of prebiotics from high-fiber foods may take a supplement. Prebiotic supplements often contain inulin, a substance derived from plants. Inulin may also be taken with probiotics to boost their effectiveness.