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Your Prebiotic Plate

What are prebiotics? In short, all prebiotics are fiber, but not all fiber is prebiotic. Prebiotic fiber resists digestion in the upper gastrointestinal tract, ferments in the colon (a.k.a. large intestine), and fuels the growth of probiotic microorganisms that are linked with optimal well-being.

Researchers are still working to identify the ways prebiotic fibers support human health. Many of the benefits attributed to a well-balanced microbiome are due to byproducts of fiber fermentation called short-chain fatty acids, or SCFAs, explains Jane Muir, PhD, head of translational nutritional science in the Department of Gastroenterology at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.

So, what are the best prebiotics to eat? Below are 16 prebiotic-rich foods — for extra credit, pair them with the suggested probiotics. Note that, generally, the less foods are cooked, the greater the prebiotic content.


Prebiotic fiber: Inulin and FOS.

Enjoy it: Raw or lightly steamed for the most prebiotics.

Probiotic pairing: Dip spears in a sauce made of plain kefir blended with a drizzle of olive oil, lemon zest, and a pinch of salt.

Unripe bananas

Prebiotic fiber: Resistant starch.

Enjoy it: Buy green and eat before fully ripened. Try sliced, mashed, or frozen and blended into “nice cream.”

Probiotic pairing: Whirl a frozen banana in a blender with plain, full-fat yogurt, a handful of greens, and a tablespoon of nut butter for a smoothie.

Buckwheat groats

Prebiotic fiber: Resistant starch.

Enjoy it: Allow cooked buckwheat to cool for the most prebiotics, then top a green salad with a scoop of these gluten-free pseudo-grains.

Probiotic pairing: Make buckwheat pancakes and serve alongside grilled tempeh “bacon” strips.


Prebiotic fiber: FOS.

Enjoy it: Toss raw cabbage with rice-wine vinegar and sesame oil for an Asian-inspired salad.

Probiotic pairing: Make your own sauerkraut for a pre- and probiotic treat.


Prebiotic fiber: Resistant starch.

Enjoy it: Soak and cook dried chickpeas to make hummus. (Canned chickpeas have lower levels of prebiotic fiber than dried.)

Probiotic pairing: Top hummus with naturally fermented pickles or other veggies.

Dandelion greens

Prebiotic fiber: Inulin.

Enjoy it: For the most prebiotics, eat these bitter greens raw; mix with milder salad greens like romaine and baby spinach.

Probiotic pairing: Top with goat cheese or a yogurt-based dressing.


Prebiotic fiber: FOS and GOS.

Enjoy it: Slice the bulb, which has more prebiotics than the fronds, and eat raw.

Probiotic pairing: Toss with plain yogurt and top with zaatar, a Middle Eastern spice mixture.


Prebiotic fiber: Inulin, GOS, and FOS.

Enjoy it: Eat raw for the most prebiotic power. Try sprinkling minced raw garlic into a warm soup as a spicy garnish.

Probiotic pairing: Chop crushed garlic and blend with plain yogurt, grated and drained cucumber, chopped dill, and lemon juice for an easy Greek tzatziki sauce.

Jerusalem artichokes

Prebiotic fiber: Inulin and FOS.

Enjoy it: Peel and slice thinly using a mandoline. Add raw to a salad, or toss with olive oil and roast at 400 degrees F until lightly browned.

Probiotic pairing: Try it with a kefir dressing: Blend plain kefir with olive oil, lemon zest, and salt.


Prebiotic fiber: Resistant starch.

Enjoy it: Add a scoop of cooked lentils to any salad for a prebiotic protein boost.

Probiotic pairing: In addition to lentils, top your salad with sauerkraut or other pickled vegetables.

Oats (rolled and steel-cut)

Prebiotic fiber: Resistant starch.

Enjoy it: Top cooked oats with a handful of wilted baby spinach, a sunny-side-up egg, and freshly ground pepper.

Probiotic pairing: Mix 1/3 cup each uncooked steel-cut oats, plain full-fat yogurt, and milk of choice in a Mason jar, along with 1 tablespoon chia seeds. Refrigerate overnight and serve in the morning with your favorite oatmeal toppings.


Prebiotic fiber: Inulin and FOS.

Enjoy it: Eat raw or lightly cooked for the greatest prebiotic effect. Try sprinkling raw into your favorite soup.

Probiotic pairing: Whisk miso paste with water and bring to a simmer for aromatic miso broth. Add onions and cook until just softened.


Prebiotic fiber: FOS and GOS.

Enjoy it: Eat a handful or sprinkle onto a salad for added crunch.

Probiotic pairing: Toss into a blender along with plain kefir, a handful of spinach, and a frozen banana for a prebiotic green smoothie.


Prebiotic fiber: Resistant starch.

Enjoy it: Boil and allow to cool. Toss with oil and vinegar and finely chopped veggies for a prebiotic side salad.

Probiotic pairing: Serve with sauerkraut.


Prebiotic fiber: FOS and inulin.

Enjoy it: Eat raw in a salad, or toss with olive oil and roast, then drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

Probiotic pairing: Mix raw, shredded radicchio with plain yogurt, lemon juice, and lemon zest for a side salad.


Prebiotic fiber: FOS.

Enjoy it: Cube and sprinkle with coarse sea salt for a simple snack.

Probiotic pairing: Top sliced watermelon with sprinkles of feta cheese, and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

This originally appeared as “Your Prebiotic Plate” in “Feed Your Flora” in the April 2018 print issue of Experience Life.

Photography by: John Mowers

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