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Having a healthy gut with the right balance of good bacteria (yep, “good” bacteria is a thing!) can change the entire health of our bodies! By now, you’ve probably heard about the health benefits of probiotics (AKA “good” bacteria) and maybe you’ve even made a point to add some probiotic-containing foods into your diet. But did you know PREbiotics are also important to gut health? Read on for recipes and more info!

What are Prebiotics?
Just as plants need sun and water to grow, probiotics need prebiotics in order to fully thrive within your intestine. Prebiotics, let’s call them “good” bacteria promoters,” are specific fibers that are indigestible and found in everyday plant foods. These fibers are then fermented and used by the “good” bacteria and not by the “bad” bacteria. Although more needs to be known, experts believe prebiotics may also boost gut health by increasing the amount of Bifidobacteria, which is just a (really) big word for a certain probiotic that is associated with inhibiting the growth of “bad” or pathogenic bacteria.

Where to find Prebiotics?
In addition to boosting gut health, including prebiotic-containing foods in your daily diet may also have a positive effect on the immune system, help reduce appetite, lower body fat and improve glucose tolerance. So where do we find these amazing prebiotics? There are a variety of plant foods that contain these compounds. Inulin is a well-studied prebiotic and you can find it in garlic, onion, asparagus, leeks, chicory, jicama and Jerusalem artichokes. For other prebiotic fibers, enjoy bananas (particularly green bananas which are high in prebiotic-acting resistant starch), berries, ground flaxseed, beans and legumes, whole grains (including whole wheat, oats and barley), dark leafy greens (especially dandelion greens) and unsweetened cocoa.

How to Incorporate Probiotics AND Prebiotics?
Prebiotics (good bacteria promoters) and probiotics (good bacteria) work together synergistically! While getting them both in your daily diet is a great start, getting them both in the same meal is even better! For a simple solution, look for ways to add ground flaxseed or green bananas to your probiotic-rich Greek yogurt or yogurt-based smoothie.

How Do Avocados Fit In?
While you may know avocados are good for you and are a rich-plant source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, you may not know that avocados are also a delicious source of prebiotic fibers! At least 30% of the fiber in avocados is a  prebiotic fiber. These unique creamy fruits also contribute nearly 20 vitamins and minerals, plus phytonutrients with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity. One-third of a medium avocado adds about 3 grams of fiber and only 80 calories! Pick up an avocado each time you go grocery shopping and add them to salads, sandwiches (instead of mayonnaise) and any egg, casserole or Mexican-style dish. You can even use an avocado half as an edible bowl for tuna or chicken salad!

Pro Tip: When adding fiber and prebiotic foods to your daily diet, do it gradually and always remember to drink even more water than you usually do — this will help minimize GI upset!

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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