Prebiotic Foods and Herbs List PDF - Free Download

Prebiotic Foods & Herbs List PDF (Free Download)

If you’re looking for ways to include more prebiotics in your diet (to help optimize your gut health), this free downloadable Prebiotic Foods & Herbs List PDF is just what the dietitian ordered! 😉

Probiotics are all the craze in the wellness industry nowadays. But if you ask me, not enough attention is given to prebiotics. (When it comes to optimizing your gut health, we need both prebiotics and probiotics!)

In this article I’ll give you a complete overview of the benefits and types of prebiotic foods and herbs.  As an added bonus, you can even download and print this information as a PDF, for free. 🙂

Disclaimer: This is not medical advice!  This article was written for educational purposes only. If you’re navigating a medical condition, especially a gut disorder such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), it’s in your best interest to consult a doctor and a functional dietitian-nutritionist about incorporating prebiotics into your diet.

Affiliate disclosure: This article contains affiliate links*. As an Amazon Associate, I will make a small commission on qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you.

What are prebiotics?

Prebiotics are naturally-occuring, indigestible fibers or carbohydrates found in certain foods and herbs.  They’re called “prebiotics” because they precede and feed our probiotics (healthy microbes) in the body.

  • Prebiotics aren’t just helpful – they’re required for the sustained growth and survival of probiotics in the gut microbiome (aka the unique ecosystem of microbes living in your gut, impacting virtually every aspect of health).

In fact, prebiotics are an entire stand-alone category of functional foods!

What are functional foods?

Functional foods are types of foods which serve a very specific purpose in the body from a health and wellness standpoint, beyond just providing nutrients.

A few examples of functional foods in the field of gut health include, but are not limited to:

  • Prebiotic foods for feeding the “good” probiotic microbes in the gut
  • Probiotic foods for supporting a healthy microbiome
  • High fiber foods for regularity
  • Bone broth for a healthy gut lining

Prebiotics vs probiotics

While they’re two entirely separate categories of functional foods, prebiotics and probiotics still go hand-in-hand as a dynamic duo, because they’re both required for healthy digestion.

Probiotics are the “good” healthy, beneficial bacteria and yeast that live in our bodies. Probiotics help us to do things like digest and absorb nutrients from food.  They also help regulate the gut pH (acidity level), keep “bad” pathogenic microbes from overgrowing, and they produce nutrients which help nourish and protect our gut lining.

Prebiotics, on the other hand, are the constituents in certain types of food which feed and nourish the probiotic microbes in the body.  Without prebiotics from food/supplements, the healthy probiotic microbes would not be able to survive and thrive.

Health benefits of prebiotics

Prebiotic foods and herbs make wonderful plant allies for those of us looking to imptove/opmize gut health.

Behind the scenes, at the cellular level, prebiotics are serving us in ways that include but aren’t limited to (1):

  • Supporting the growth of healthy probiotic microbe strains such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus
  • Enhancing the production of gut health-promoting short-chain fatty acids (“postbiotics”)
  • Helping to optimize calcium absorption in the gut
  • Combating dysbiosis by reducing the survival rate of “bad” pathogenic bacteria in the gut
  • Playing a role in reducing the risk of developing allergies
  • Supporting healthy gut barrier permeability
  • Contributing to stronger immunity

Who needs prebiotics?

While we all need and benefit from incorporating prebiotics in the form of plant-based foods and/or herbs into our diet, those with gut issues of any kind may want to pay extra attention to what I’m about to share!

In my functional nutrition clinic, when I run a comprehensive stool analysis test such as the GI MAP, I almost always uncover that many of my clients with IBS or IBD actually also have SIBO and/or gut dysbiosis (a deficiency in probiotic microbes, combined with an overgrowth of unhealthy, troublesome gut microbes).

  • Anyone who discovers that their gut microbiome is deficient in vital probiotic strains such as Lactobacillus, Acidophilus and/or Bifidobacterium can benefit from reading this article and may want to refer to the Prebiotic Foods & Herbs List PDF as a resource on their journey (alongside consulting their doctor and functional dietitian).
  • People who have been prescribed a low FODMAP diet or a low fiber/low residue  diet may be at increased risk of not getting enough prebiotics in their diet, and should read this article.

Prebiotic types

While there are lots of different prebiotic constituents naturally occurring in certain plant-based foods, the most common types of prebiotic polysaccharides (long-chain carbohydrates) and antioxidants in prebiotic foods are:

  • Beta-glucans
  • Fructooligosaccharides (FOS)
  • Galactooligosaccharides
  • Inulin
  • Lactulose
  • Pectin (2)
  • Polyphenols
  • Resistant starch
  • Xylooligosaccharides

47 prebiotic foods and herbs

Almonds

Recent studies have found that the skin in both raw and roasted almonds are a natural food source of prebiotics, which feed and support the growth of probiotics (healthy microbes) in the gut. (3)

  • A study from 2014 which measured microbes in stool samples among 3 groups of people found that the groups who consumed either roasted almonds or almond skins had increased levels of beneficial probiotic strains Bifidobacterium spp. and Lactobacillus spp. after just 6 weeks.
  • Finely ground almonds in vitro had a higher prebiotic index compared to commercial prebiotic fructooligosaccharides. This was determined based on measured improvements in probiotic bifidobacteria and Eubacterium rectaleas growth, as well as butyrate production (short-chain fatty acids, or “post-biotics”). (4)

Consider adding almonds to oatmeal, trail mix, granola, or try adding almond butter to an apple/baana or your morning toast, to start reaping the prebiotic benefits of almonds.

Apples

An apple a day may just keep the bad microbes away! 😎

Apples are naturally high in pectin, a prebiotic starch.  Pectin is resistant to stomach acidity so it’s able to travel all the way to the colon where it can reach and feed healthy bacteria. (5, 6)

Pectin from apples has led to increased survival of probiotic bacteria in the gut, and it has also been linked with improved heart health and reduced inflammation in some studies. (6)

  • To get more pectin from apples, you could try adding on some sliced apples  with cinnamon to your oatmeal, or begin having an apple and peanut butter as a daily snack.

Amaranth

While more research is needed, an in-vitro study from April 2022 concluded that both amaranth and quinoa have “prebiotic potential” and may help “improve dysbiosis or maintain gastrointestinal health.” (7)  This isn’t surprising, considering these ancient grains are packed with fiber and polyphenols!

  • For dietary variety, you could consider trying amaranth porridge* at breakfast in place of other cereals.

Asparagus

Asparagus contains an “inulin-type fructan” which likely has prebiotic activity in the gut. (8)  This makes sense, considering a recent study from 2020 found that asparagus extract led to the growth of healthy gut microbes in mice, also resulting in lower cholesterol which was likely attributed to the boost in probiotic bacteria. (9)

More research is needed to figure out all the wonderful prebiotic benefits that asparagus has to offer, but this is a good start!

Barley

Barley contains beta-glucans (like mushrooms), which help to support the growth of healthy microbes in the gut. (10, 11, 12)

  • Barley contains gluten, so avoid barley if you have celiac disease.
  • If you have a non-celiac wheat sensitivity and have ruled out celiac disease, you may be able to still eat barley – but listen to your gut (literally). 😉

Beans (Black and Pinto)

Beans are rich in prebiotic oligosaccharides, fructooligosaccharides, and resistant starch. (13, 14, 15)

The downside of beans is they tend to cause gas and bloating (due to the indigestible carbs that ferment in the gut and produce methane), so if you find you’re gassy and bloated often, you may be eating too much of a good thing.

  • If you tolerate beans, you could add some to salads, fajitas, stir fry, or you could try a bean-based pasta for extra protein and fiber.

Berries

Berries are a wonderful low FODMAP prebiotic fruit! Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries are all rich in prebiotic polyphenols which support the growth of Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus and Akkermansia probiotics. (16, 17)

  • Add a handful of berries to cereal, oatmeal, yogurt, or even to have with your morning waffles/pancakes.

Broccoli

Broccoli and other cruciferous veggies (like cauliflower, cabbage, and brussel sprouts) are all naturally high in glucosinolates, chemicals which give them their bitter taste and distinct smell, which have lots of health-promoting properties, and which can apparently be metabolized by gut microbes. (18, 19)

  • A study from 2019 reported that just a few weeks of daily broccoli consumption resulted in reduced strains of certain gut microbes while increasing strains of healthy gut microbes.
    • Participants who ate broccoli ended up seeing improvements not just in their digestion but also with hormone regulation and energy metabolism. (18)

I love adding broccoli to my pasta dishes. We typically match the amount of broccoli by volume to the amount of pasta, and then we add an equal volume of protein (such as chicken). It’s pretty darn delicious!  This is one of my husband’s favorite meals we have at home.

Buckwheat

An ancient grain and little-known “superfood”, buckwheat has been shown to help reduce cholesterol and blood pressure, protect the nerve cells, have anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory,and antidiabetic effects in the blood, as well as have prebiotic antioxidant benefits. (20, 21)

Burdock root (Articum lappa)

Roots and tubers like burdock root are naturally high in prebiotic fructooligosaccharides. (22)

Burdock is also considered a bitter herb which can benefit digestion by stimulating digestive secretions in the gut.

Given its mild and pleasant taste when made as a tea decoction, burdock as a bitter + prebiotic herb could make a wonderful tea for digestion!

Cabbage

Cabbage is a cruciferous veggie, and it is also the key ingredient in sauerkraut.

While we know that raw sauerkraut is a potent probiotic food, a 2018 study found that pasteurized sauerkraut also seemed to increase and optimize probiotic gut microbes (to a lesser extent), improving IBS symptoms among participants – because of its prebiotic properties.

Cherries

If you’ve got gut dysbiosis and you’re a fan of tart cherries, they could make a wonderful ally for you on your gut-healing journey!

  • According to both in-vitro and in-vivo studies, the antioxidants found in tart cherries (anthocyanins and flavonoids like quercetin, to name a few) seem to selectively boost healthy gut microbes such as Bifidobacteria only in people who don’t have enough of it, while reducing the presence of certain types of “commensal” (opportunistic) gut microbes if they’re over-growing.  (23)
  • Or if you prefer smoothies (such as this iron-rich cherry cacao smoothie), you may want to add a spoonful of dark sweet cherry powder* as a prebiotic functional food add-on.
    • An in-vivo study from 2018 found that in just 12 weeks, a daily dose of dark sweet cherry powder resulted in selectively boost and optimized secretions of post-biotics in the lower intestines, only among people whose short-chain fatty acid levels were initially compromised. (24)

Cocoa (cacao)

Cocoa powder and cacao powder (which both come from the plant Cacao theobroma) contain specific types of antioxidants called polyphenols and flavanols.  

  • These chemicals are poorly absorbed in the intestine and directly interact w/ gut microbes in ways that are beneficial to digestion, immunity, and more. (25, 26, 27)

Make sure to check out my cacao recipes, if you’re looking for ways to get more prebiotic cacao powder into your diet! 😉

Or if you prefer to find already-made cacao products in the supermarket, you may want to try out some of my favorite cacao-based staple treats such as:

Cassava

This starchy root veggie or “tuber” (often found in grain-free, corn-free Paleo recipes and product lines like Siete tortilla chips*) provides a prebiotic resistant starch in the form of maltodextrins. (28, 29, 30)

Or if you prefer sweet, bubbly beverages over salty, crunchy snacks, make sure to check out one of my favorite soda alternatives, Olipop*, which contains cassava root starch as a prebiotic functional food ingredient!

(Learn more about my favorite prebiotic drinks here.)

Cauliflower

Unlike other cruciferous veggies, cauliflower stalks are uniquely a natural food source of xylooligosaccharides which are being studied not just as a prebiotic to support the growth of healthy gut microbes, but also due to their ability to reduce the growth of unhealthy gut microbes! (31)

  • If traditional cauliflower florets aren’t your thing, but you’d like to incorporate cauliflower into your regimen, you may want to try out this cauliflower mash or a cauliflower pizza crust!

Chia seeds (Salvia hispanica L.)

Chia seeds have been identified as a potent prebiotic (10), due to their soluble fiber which seems to impact gut microbes, brush border (part of the gut lining), and even mineral absorption for the better. (32, 33)

Chicory root (Cichorium intybus L.)

This plant is a potent source of prebiotic constituents inulin, pectin, and hemicellulose as well as polyphenols for supporting a healthy gut and even helping to promote hormone balance. (34, 35)

While chicory is technically available as a food, it’s most often used as a source of supplemental dietary fiber in foods.

Roasted chicory root (in combination with other prebiotic herbs such as dandelion root and/or burdock root) can also make a wonderful coffee substitute for those with IBS who don’t tolerate caffeine!

The only word of caution when it comes to chicory root and IBS/SIBO is that it’s very high in FODMAPs, so avoid products containing chicory if you’re prone to gas and bloating and/or you’ve been advised by your treatment team to follow a low FODMAP diet.

Chickpeas

While they may cause gas and bloating when consumed in excess, small amounts of chickpeas were found to help support the growth and protection of probiotic strain Bacillus subtilis, according to a 2021 study from Nutrients. (36)

If you can tolerate chickpeas in moderation, consider adding a few spoonfuls of cooked chickpeas to your salad or pasta dish, for a boost of prebiotics!

  • According to Monash University, a serving of up to 1/4 cup of canned or cooked chickpeas is considered low in FODMAPs.
    • Consider trying small amounts of chickpeas up to two to three times per week max, to reap the prebiotic benefits of chickpeas without an IBS aftermath!

Dandelion root and greens (Taraxacum officinale)

Dandelion is not just a backyard weed – it’s a nutritional powerhouse, packed with vitamins, minerals, detoxifying abilities, and prebiotics.

While the roots are rich in inulin and liver-stimulating constituents (37), the leaves of dandelion (aka “dandelion greens”) are a naturally potassium-rich diuretic which contain an abundance of oligofructans which can help to feed Bifidobacteria and other healthy gut microbes. (11)

Flaxseeds (Linum usitatissimum)

Ground flaxseeds or “flax meal” is packed with gut health-promoting soluble fiber and phenolic antioxidants, which serve as a prebiotic to feed the good microbes in your body.  (33, 38)

  • If you benefit from a high-fiber diet, consider adding a tablespoon or two of ground flaxseeds to probiotic yogurt, a smoothie (like this smoothie for constipation), oatmeal, or overnight oats.

Garlic (Allium sativum)

In addition to keeping vampires away, garlic helps keep “bad” pathogenic microbes at bay, while simultaneously supporting the growth of probiotic strain Lactobacillus acidophilus. (39, 40)

Still, garlic isn’t for everyone!

  • In my clinic, I see lots of people with IBS and SIBO discover that they actually have a bit of a garlic intolerance (likely since garlic is high in FODMAPs). Always listen to your body.
    • Start keeping track of your food intake and bowel movements via an IBS food diary* and work with a gut health dietitian to get crystal-clear on any underlying food intolerances, even if they’re said to be “healthy.” (One size never fits all!)

Ginger

According to a 2022 study published by Molecules, ginger contains bioactive polyphenols which act as “prebiotics to the gut microbiota, promoting gut health and reducing the unwanted side effects of iron tablets.”

Green bananas / green banana flour

Both green bananas and dried, powdered green banana flour are a potent source of resistant starch.

Studies have suggested incorporating green banana flour into your regime could be especially helpful for people with IBD, but more research is needed! (41, 42)

If you’d like to give it a try, it may be worth swapping out all-purpose flour for green banana flour* in recipes that call for all-purpose flour. (Use 25% less banana flour, since it’s high in fiber!)

Green tea

Loose-leaf and powdered variations of green tea as well as green tea extract have been shown in multiple studies to increase the proportion and support healthy growth of Bifidobacterium and other probiotic gut microbes. (43, 44, 45, 46, 47)

No wonder so many people are interested in learning more about green tea for digestion!

Honey

Did you know honey is beneficial for some folkss with IBS? That’s because it contains about 4 to 5% fructooligosaccharides, which are a type of prebiotic. (48)

A 2006 study measured the “before-and-after” effects of honey in mice, and concluded that the group of mice receiving honey (versus no honey) experienced a rise in beneficial gut microbes like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, as a result of these prebiotics. (48)

Jerusalem artichokes / “sunchokes”

Jerusalem artichokes as a prebiotic food would make a wonderful addition to pasta dishes, or you could also lacto-ferment them to get a nice combination of prebiotics and probiotics!

This veggie is high in inulin and fructooligosaccharides; it’s also high in FODMAPs so proceed with caution if you’re finding that FODMAP veggies trigger your unwanted IBS symptoms.  (2949)

Kiwi

Kiwifruit flies under the radar for all of its health benefits!  This fruit has been found to selectively enhance the growth of probiotic Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria strains in the intestines due to its prebiotic oligosaccharides. (50, 51)

Eating two kiwifruits a day has actually been shown to help remedy constipation. (52)

  • Try having a kiwi with breakfast and one in the morning or afternoon as part of a balanced snack!

Leeks

Leeks are a low FODMAP prebiotic, and they make a great alternative to onions in recipes if you find that onions are a trigger of your IBS symptoms. (53)

You can use leeks to replace onions in a chicken soup, roasted veggie medley, or any other recipe that calls for cooked onions. Go ahead and give them a try either way!

Lentils

In addition to being a great source of fiber and antioxidants, lentils are well established to contain prebiotic polysaccharides. (54)

However, lentils are still a legume that contains FODMAPs, so you may want to consume lentils in moderation (i.e. up to 1/2 cup as one of your servings of legumes up to two to three days a week) if you’re looking to reap their prebiotic benefits without going into an IBS flare.

  • Try adding a few spoonfuls of lentils to your salad, or you could also try a lentil-based pasta a few times a week to get more protein and fiber from your pasta dishes.

Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra)

This demulcent herb is well-known among practitioners of Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and functional medicine to be a wonderful ally for people with gastrointestinal dryness (constipation) and inflammation, but new research is also confirming licorice root to be a potent prebiotic herb. (55)

  • Licorice root was found in a 2018 study by the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine to promote gut health from multiple angles by boosting the growth of healthy gut microbes, increasing the production of post-biotics (short-chain fatty acids), and reducing the presence of dysbiotic (bad) gut microbes like Klebsiella pneumoniae. (55)

Mango

In addition to being a wonderful food source of vitamin C, mango is also rich in pectin and soluble fibers which can help to optimize the gut microbiome, according to research. (56, 57)

  • Mango is high in fructose, so people who are following a low FODMAP or low fructose diet will need to tread lightly and consult their gut health dietitian if you’re unsure whether or not mango is going to help or hurt your gut.

Marshmallow root (Althaea officinalis)

While there are currently no studies directly investigating the role of marshmallow root as a prebiotic, this demulcent herb contains mucilaginous polysaccharides such as L-rhamnose and D-galacturonic acid (the main constituent of prebiotic pectin) which are well known to support the growth of healthy gut microbes. (58, 59. 60)

  • Work with a functional medicine doctor, functional dietitian, holistic nutritionist and/or a clinical herbalist to determine whether or not marshmallow root (as a tea decoction, cold infusion, or in capsule form) could be a great plant ally for you on your gut-healing journey.

Mushrooms

This unique group of fungi contain multiple types of prebiotic polysaccharide constituents: xylans, galactans, β and α-glucans, and chitin, according to research! (61, 62, 63)

Although mushrooms are technically considered to be a high FODMAP food, in my clinic I’ve observed anecdotally that most people with IBS and/or IBD can actually eat cooked mushrooms in moderation without any issues.

  • Based on my own case study observations in the past decade, those who are most likely to experience a flare due to eating mushrooms tend to be those with underlying SIBO or a mushroom sensitivity.
  • Always listen to your body first and foremost, and if you’re still unsure, make sure to work with a qualified practitioner who can help you uncover your body’s best foods!

Oats

From supporting heart health and lowering “bad” cholesterol, to giving a boost of soluble fiber for regularity, to feeding healthy probiotic microbes in the gut via their phytochemicals (64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69)… oats are pretty fabulous!

Oats are also versatile from a culinary standpoint; you don’t have to eat traditional oatmeal to reap the prebiotic benefits of oats. You could also try enjoying oats in any of the following ways:

Onions

Although they’re high in FODMAPs, both red and white onions are among one of the most well-known prebiotic foods due to their fructooligosaccharides, polyphenols, and inulin content. (70, 71)

The good news (anecdotally) is lots of people with IBS/IBD seem to still tolerate cooked onions in moderation, without any issues or flares, based on my clinical observation. (Listen to your body! You know it best.)

  • Unless you’ve noticed that onions seem to trigger your IBS symptoms, or you’ve been prescribed a low FODMAP diet for SIBO, onions could be a great add-in for extra prebiotics to almost any meal or recipe.
    • Consult a dietitian and consider starting an IBS food diary* if you’d like extra clarity around which foods work best (and which ones don’t work) for your body!

Peas

Green peas have more nutritional value than most people give them credit for!

This low FODMAP veggie & legume contains non-fructosylated α-galactooligosaccharide constituents which are helpful in reducing gas production from bacterial fermentation; also found to support the growth of certain Bifidobacteria strains. (72)

  • Try adding a few spoonfuls of green peas into a salad or have peas as part of a mixed veggie medley or shepherd’s pie to star reaping the benefits of prebiotic green peas.

Potatoes

Potato starch in general, and cold potatoes in particular, provide an abundance of resistant dextrins which seem to enhance the growth of my two favorite all-star probiotic microbe strains, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. (73)

Psyllium husks

Psyllium is well-known for being a high-fiber functional food for constipation. But its high soluble fiber content isn’t the only reason psyllium husks are helpful as a natural constipation remedy!

In addition to improving bowel movements volume and consistency, studies are finding that psyllium alters gut microbes for the better, and improved postbiotic levels of people who suffer from constipation. (74, 75) This is promising for people with IBS-C and dysbiosis!

  • Try adding a spoonful of psyllium to your favorite oatmeal, a beverage of choice, or a smoothie such as this high fiber smoothie for constipation. (Don’t add too much, or your smoothie will turn into a jello!)
  • Some of my clients also prefer to take psyllium in capsule form.

Quinoa

As an ancient grain (alongside amaranth), polysaccharide-rich quinoa is now being studied for its prebiotic potential, and the results are promising. (7, 76)

Quinoa is also low in FODMAPs and higher in protein compared to similar alternatives like rice.

  • Swapping rice for quinoa in a stir-fry or stuffed pepper recipe is an easy way to boost prebiotics in some of your favorite dishes!

Seaweed

Various types of sea greens are famous for their rich mineral content, especially iodine for thyroid health. But seaweed is also packed with prebiotic benefits! (77)

  • Snacking on seaweed sticks or opting for sushi a few times a month is a great way to boost iodine and prebiotics at the same time.

Slippery elm bark (Ulmus rubra)

This mucilaginous herb offers prebiotic benefits very similar to licorice root and triphala, due to their similar polysaccharide profiles. (55)

However, since this herb is now at risk of extinction due to over-harvesting in North America, I advise my clients to steer clear of choosing this herb as a demulcent and/or prebiotic for their gut health, unless there are no alternative options.

Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes are a personal favorite, not just for the plethora of health benefits they have to offer – I also think they’re pretty delicious! I love that you can go with regular or purple, and they can be made into sweet decadent dishes or savory comfort foods.

As an added bonus, sweet potatoes support healthy diversity in gut flora, due to their resistant starch! (78, 79)

Rarely, I’ve seen some people have a food sensitivity or candida-type reaction to sweet potatoes, but otherwise they’re usually very GI-friendly.

If you’d like to incorporate more sweet potatoes into your diet, you may want to try out a few of the following ideas:

Tapioca starch

Tapioca starch isn’t exactly something to snack on as a stand-alone prebiotic food, but still, it’s something to keep in mind!

The prebiotic starches in tapioca (extracted from cassava root) have been found to “modulate” (balance) the microbes in the mouth, which benefits dental health as well as many other aspects of health. (80)

Keep a lookout for recipes that call for tapioca, or you can also use tapioca flour / tapioca starch* in place of cornstarch (in recipes that call for cornstarch).

Tomatoes

While the jury is still out on whether or not tomatoes are a veggie or a fruit, one thing I know for sure is all tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant which has been linked with an increase in probiotic Bifidobacterium strains. (27)

  • Tomato juice consumed daily for as little as 5 weeks may also increase Lactobacillus, according to a 2017 study from Food & function! (81)

Triphala (Emblica officinalis, Terminalia chebula, and Terminalia bellerica)

“Triphala” is actually an Ayurvedic herbal trio of three separate herbs blended together: amlaki / amla, haritaki, and bibhitaki.

While more research is needed, it’s well-established in Ayurvedic literature that triphala supports a healthier gut, and it could be in part due to the prebiotic potential comparable to that of licorice root and slippery elm bark. (55)

  • Due to its bitter taste, I wouldn’t recommend consuming triphala as a food or tea. You’d be better off taking this one in capsule form! Consult your practitioner if you’d like custom guidance on how to take triphala for prebiotics and better gut health.

Walnuts

These brain-shaped nuts are most well-known for their brain-boosting, heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids – but many of their heart health benefits may actually be linked to their prebiotic effects on feeding healthy probiotic flora in the gut. (82, 83)

  • To reap the prebiotic benefits of walnuts, you could keep things simple and snack on them by the handful, or you could add them to oatmeal or a trail mix, or you could also consider trying out walnut butter (in place of regular butter) on toast/waffles!

Whole wheat

This whole grain staple is naturally high in prebiotic fructans (a type of fructooligosaccharide), which can be good or bad depending on your individual needs. (84, 85)

A few things to consider before opting for all things “whole wheat”:

  • Fructans are high in FODMAPs which can make some people with IBS and/or SIBO have an adverse reaction due to a fructan intolerance.
  • Many people (especially in the U.S.) are prone to a wheat sensitivity and may find that eating wheat makes them feel worse.
  • Wheat is also a natural dietary source of gluten, so people with celiac disease need to avoid wheat due to a gluten allergy.

Prebiotic foods, drinks and herbs by category

Complete list of 44 prebiotic foods and herbs - organized by food group

Fruits

  • Apples
  • Avocado
  • Bananas
  • Berries
  • Cherries
  • Green banana flour
  • Kiwi
  • Mango

Veggies

  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Dandelion greens
  • Jerusalem artichokes / “sunchokes”
  • Leeks
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Peas
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Tomatoes

Whole grains and starches

  • Amaranth
  • Barley
  • Buckwheat
  • Cassava flour
  • Oats
  • Potatoes
  • Quinoa
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Tapioca starch
  • Whole wheat

Nuts and seeds

  • Almonds
  • Chia seeds
  • Flaxseeds
  • Walnuts
    • More studies are needed to confirm the hypothesized prebiotic benefits of other nuts, specifically cashews, chestnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, and pistachios. (86)

Beans and legumes

  • Black beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Pinto beans
  • Peas

Herbs and spices

  • Burdock root
  • Cacao powder
  • Chicory root
  • Dandelion root
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Green tea & matcha
  • Licorice root
  • Marshmallow root
  • Psyllium husks
  • Seaweed
  • Slippery elm
  • Triphala

Sweeteners

  • Raw honey

Prebiotic drinks

Prebiotics and FODMAPs

Ironically, FODMAPs (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols) tend to be the highest food sources of prebiotics since they feed microbes in the gut. (Go figure!)

Undigested high FODMAP foods cause fermentation by microbes in the intestines, which could produce symptoms of gas, bloating, and IBS among some people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).

If you find you struggle with FODMAPs, you may want to avoid the higher-FODMAP prebiotics, and lean in on the low FODMAP prebiotic foods listed below.

High FODMAP and low FODMAP lists of prebiotic foods and herbs

High FODMAP prebiotics

  • Apples
  • Asparagus (more than 1 spear)
  • Avocado
  • Bananas
  • Beans (all)
  • Cauliflower
  • Cherries
  • Chickpeas (more than 1/4 cup serving)
  • Chicory root
  • Dandelion root
  • Garlic
  • Green banana flour
  • Honey
  • Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes)
  • Lentils (more than 1/2 cup serving)
  • Mango
  • Marshmallow root
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Slippery elm
  • Triphala

Low FODMAP prebiotics (SIBO-friendly)

  • Almonds
  • Berries
  • Broccoli (if less than 1/2 cup per serving)
  • Burdock root
  • Cacao powder
  • Cassava flour
  • Chickpeas (if 1/4 cup cooked, or less)
  • Chia seeds
  • Dandelion greens
  • Flax meal (ground flax seeds)
  • Ginger
  • Green tea & matcha
  • Kiwi
  • Leeks
  • Less than 1/2 cup of lentils
  • Licorice root
  • Peas
  • Potatoes (regular and sweet)
  • Psyllium husk powder
  • Seaweed
  • Tapioca starch
  • Tomatoes
  • Walnuts

Prebiotics and fiber

High fiber and low fiber lists of prebiotic foods and herbs

Some people with IBS may thrive on a higher-fiber diet, while other people may find that high-fiber, high-residue foods trigger a flare (especially in cases of IBS-D or IBD).

Refer to the high-fiber and low-fiber prebiotic food lists below and use them as a guide (alongside working with a registered dietitian) to help you determine which probiotic foods may be the best fit for your individual needs.

High fiber prebiotics

  • All fresh fruits and veggies
  • Amaranth
  • Barley
  • Beans (all)
  • Buckwheat
  • Cacao powder
  • Chia seeds
  • Chickpeas
  • Ground flax seeds
  • Lentils
  • Oats
  • Psyllium husks
  • Quinoa
  • Split peas
  • Triphala
  • Whole wheat

Low fiber + low residue prebiotics

  • Almond butter
  • Burdock root tea
  • Cassava
  • Cooked, skinles, seedless veggies
  • Dandelion greens (cooked or juiced)
  • Ginger root (juiced or extracted)
  • Green peas (cooked)
  • Green tea/matcha
  • Licorice root
  • Marshmallow root
  • Peeled, well-cooked potatoes (regular or sweet)
  • Raw honey
  • Tapioca
  • Walnut butter
  • Tomato paste (pureed)

When should you take prebiotics?

Most people don’t need to be taking prebiotic supplements, if they’re eating a generally balanced, diverse diet with plenty of plant-based foods such as fruits, veggies, whole grains (low-fiber, low-residue for IBD if needed), nuts, seeds, and beans/legumes if tolerated.

Either way, generally speaking, it’s best to consume prebiotics (as food, herbs, or supplements) within 30 minutes of taking a probiotic food or supplement, for optimum benefit.

More resources

If you found this helpful and would like to learn more about prebiotics/probiotics, make sure to check out (and share!) the following articles:

The bottom line

When it comes to prebiotic foods and herbs, there is certainly no shortage of options – and there’s something for everyone!

  • Prebiotics foods and herbs are all 100% plant-based.
  • They can be in the form of fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and herbs.
  • They can be high FODMAP or low FODMAP, high fiber or low fiber, gluten free or not.

Prebiotics are meant to complement and enhance the benefits of probiotics, by supporting a more balanced gut microbiome.  It’s generally best to have prebiotics within a similar timeframe of probiotics for optimal outcomes.

Rather than flooding your body with the same prebiotic foods/herbs or supplements everyday, you’re generally better off keeping things simple by integrating a variety of fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds and herbs (as tolerated) as part of a well-balanced diet.

While this list was not 100% exhaustive, I hope it is thorough enough to keep you busy and entertained for a while. 😉 Feel free to refer back to this Prebiotic Foods & Herbs List PDF as a guide, and don’t forget to consult your treatment team as needed for individualized recommendations!

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