If You Take Probiotics, You’ll Also Need These

Have you been trying to eat more probiotic foods lately? Probiotics are important for gut health, but these foods alone won’t give you the results you’re looking for.

We hear a lot about probiotics for healthier digestion and better overall health, but all the probiotics in the world aren’t going to make a difference if you’re not eating prebiotic foods as well. Probiotics are living organisms, and prebiotics are the foods that they eat. If you want your healthy gut flora to flourish, you’ve got to feed those good bugs!

Probiotics alone won't give you a healthy gut. You need to eat these foods, too!

Probiotics alone won’t give you a healthy gut. You need to eat these foods, too!

Prebiotics: The Missing Piece of the Gut Health Puzzle

Prebiotics are compounds found in many healthy plant foods like whole grains, fruits and vegetables, though not all plant foods contain prebiotics. Prebiotics are a type of fiber, so only plant foods (with one exception) contain prebiotics. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson Kristi King recommends bananas, onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, artichokes, soybeans and whole wheat foods to add a healthy dose of prebiotics to your daily routine. 

King also recommends combining probiotic and prebiotic foods, when you can. Drizzle some miso dressing onto your asparagus, drink a kombucha with your whole grain toast or saute some leeks when you’re making a tempeh dish.

King’s list of prebiotic foods is on the short side, so I did a little bit more digging and found a handy table from Monash University’s school of Medical, Nursing, and Health Sciences that lays out dozens of prebiotic foods:

Prebiotic Rich Foods

As you can see, human breast milk is the exception to the rule when it comes to prebiotic-rich foods. That makes sense, since babies’ developing immune systems are living on breast milk alone. All of the other prebiotic foods are plant-based.

Prebiotic Recipes

If you’re already eating a plant-based or plant-heavy diet, chances are you’re getting plenty of prebiotics in your day-to-day. For someone used to the Standard American Diet, though, prebiotics tend to be off the menu. If you are new to a fruit and veggie-rich diet, it might seem intimidating. Something like Jerusalem artichokes (aka sunchokes), for example, may feel a bit unapproachable. Below are some plant-based recipes using two or more of the foods listed above, to help you get cooking.

Adding more prebiotic foods to your diet tends to mean adding more fiber. For someone on a lower-fiber diet, that can have some embarrassing consequences if you add too much fiber too fast. A healthy gut is a great goal, but it’s hard to stick to a healthy diet when it’s causing gas and bloating. Instead of going from zero to 60 overnight, add higher fiber foods to your diet gradually. If you’re having gassy side effects, you’re adding fiber to your diet too quickly. Take your time—this is a long-term dietary change, not a crash diet.

Do you have a favorite recipe that uses the prebiotic foods listed above? Share it in the comments!

Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by Rebecca Siegel


William C
William C12 months ago


W. C
W. C12 months ago

Thank you.

Carol C
Carol Cabout a year ago

Helpful information and chart - thanks very much!

Marija M
Marija M1 years ago


Ellie M
Ellie M1 years ago


Peggy B
Peggy B1 years ago

Good to know.

Sonia M

Thanks for sharing

Elena Poensgen
Elena Poensgen1 years ago

Thank you

Elena Poensgen
Elena Poensgen1 years ago

Thank you

Karen K
Karen K2 years ago

This article is great since it has a really clear chart with lots of foods listed, more than other articles I've seen. Most of us don't eat a lot of Jerusalem artichokes, but we can find lots of the others easily!