Although they are the most commonly neglected component of the Wheat Belly lifestyle for many people, prebiotic fibers are crucial nutritional factors in the human diet. (For convenience, my use of the term “prebiotic” fiber really refers to all dietary components metabolized by bowel flora species, including polyphenols/flavonoids, soluble fibers, oligosaccharides and polysaccharides.)
Among the benefits of obtaining prebiotic fibers are:
- Facilitation of weight loss
- Reduction of insulin resistance
- Reduction of fatty liver
- Reduction of triglycerides/VLDL particles
- Reduced blood sugar
- Reduced blood pressure
- Improved sleep, vivid dreams, extended REM duration
- Reduced potential for colon cancer
There’s more, but you can see that the potential benefits of prebiotic fibers are considerable.
The average American who includes grains in his/her diet typically obtains 5-8 grams prebiotic fibers per day. When we eliminate all grains, prebiotic fiber intake drops to about half due to loss of arabinoxylan and amylose, the prebiotic fibers in grains. Measurable health effects start with an intake of 8 grams per day, while maximum benefit (at least based on current evidence) develops with a daily intake of 20 or more grams per day. (While there is evidence that hunter-gatherers obtain several-fold greater quantities, there is no evidence that this yields any additional health advantages.)
I have a simple rule-of-thumb that makes it more likely that you will obtain a healthy intake of prebiotic fibers: Include a source of prebiotic fiber in every meal.
Many people panic when they hear this. So here’s a list of easy ways to include prebiotic fibers in every meal:
- Keep a container of precooked beans (preferably in cardboard box packaging, rather than cans)–black, white, pinto, garbanzo, kidney, etc.–in the refrigerator and add 2-3 tablespoons to dishes such as an omelet, soup, or salads
- Include leeks in soup
- Include dandelion greens, thinly sliced or diced raw potatoes, sliced avocado in salads
- Include onions, garlic, and shallots in as many dishes as possible
- Make salad dressings that contain prebiotic fibers such as Red Curry Hummus or Asian Shiitake Ginger Dressings
- Include blueberries, blackberries, or raspberries in your yogurt or other foods
- Include one small apple in at least one meal or as snack
- Add a teaspoon of inulin/FOS, acacia fiber, or glucomannan to various dishes
- Snack on Chocolate-Coated Green Banana Bites
- Make a smoothie or shake with inulin powder, acacia fiber, pectin, raw white potato, or green unripe banana. Here’s a recipe for Peanut Butter Cup Detox Shake. You can find several additional recipes in the Wheat Belly 10-Day Grain Detox book and the Revised & Expanded Edition of Wheat Belly.
- Choose asparagus, radishes, daikon, and jicama to incorporate into various dishes
- Add chia seeds and ground golden flaxseed to smoothies, shakes, yogurt, and other dishes.
Here’s a recipe for a soup that is packed with prebiotic fibers.
Mushroom, Lentil, and Leek Soup
This tasty soup provides prebiotic fibers from lentils, mushrooms, leek, onion, and garlic.
Makes 4 servings, 14.6 net carbs per serving. (Because of imprecise quantification of prebiotic fiber in many foods, I estimate that each serving provides around 3-5 grams prebiotic fibers.)
1/4 cup lentils
4 tablespoons butter
8 ounces white button or Portabella mushrooms, sliced
1 leek, sliced (discard roots; discard green tops or save for making broth)
1 medium onion, diced
4-5 cloves garlic
4 cups beef broth
Salt, pepper to taste
Place lentils in saucepan, cover with water and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until lentils softened (variable, depending on variety of lentil but typically between 15-30 minutes). Pour water off and set aside.
In large skillet over medium-high heat, combine butter, mushrooms, leeks, onion, garlic and saute until mushrooms and leeks softened, about 8 minutes. You can add 2 tablespoons of broth to keep vegetables from burning.
Stir in lentils and remaining broth, bring to brief boil, then turn off heat.
Here are a few additional Wheat Belly Blog recipes for dishes that include prebiotic fibers:
Ramen Noodles–made with glucomannan-rich shirataki noodles