Simply put, prebiotics are also known as fiber. These non-digestible carbohydrate fibers nourish the good bacteria in your gut. Fiber is one of those things we all know we should eat, and eat lots of, but have you ever wondered why? Fiber not only helps keep you regular, but numerous studies over the years have shown many other benefits related to fiber and cardiovascular health, your body’s ability to fight disease, and weight management, among others. Prebiotic fiber is commonly found in foods such as leeks, asparagus, chicory, Jerusalem artichokes, garlic, onions, wheat, oats, and soybeans. These prebiotic foods are carbohydrate compounds that are not digested in the human small intestine, instead they travel to the colon where they are fermented by the gut microflora. These colonic microflora contribute to the barrier that prevents bad bacteria from invading your gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
So why is it important to include prebiotic fiber in your diet? Well this type of fiber is associated with improvement in gut barrier function, the reduction of potential "bad" bacteria, and increased short chain fatty acids (SCFA) production. Short chain fatty acids help regulate sodium and water absorption and enhance absorption of calcium and other minerals. In addition, they also lower colonic pH, which can inhibit growth of potential pathogens and promote the growth of beneficial bacteria. SCFAs also play a role in improving immune function by increasing activity of your immune cells. Prebiotic's have other benefits including lowering the risk for cardiovascular disease, promoting weight loss, and preventing obesity. These are all good reasons to start eating a diet rich in prebiotic foods!
Slavin, J. (2013). Fiber and Prebiotics: Mechanisms and Health Benefits.Nutrients, 5(4), 1417–1435. doi:10.3390/nu5041417