years ago, my father discussed doctrine of signatures with me. That was what ignited my passion for nature. It was thrilling to know that plants which resemble our body parts can in some way treat or alleviate the illness of such body parts.
Modern medicine rejects the doctrine of signatures, yet, scientific researchers keep validating them unintentionally!
Take the seed of Irvingia gabonensis (ogbono) as an example, when cooked, it is slimy just like sperm and some studies support the claims on the use of the seeds by traditional medicine practitioners as a fertility agent.
This second story is also credited to my father. He said that in our hometown, a man had for a long time searched for a particular herb used in the preparation of charms that prevent bullets from penetrating people’s bodies. All of a sudden, the same plant started springing up around houses! The man now called some people and told them that there would be a war outbreak. Truly, the Nigerian civil war broke out! Whether we believe it or not, some people have “received knowledge” about plants.
The reason I have said all these is to let you know that there is more to reap from nature than the ingestion of herbs.
The metaphor ‘mother nature’ emphasises the idea that nature provides sustenance, protection and care, much like a mother does for her children.
I see Mother Nature as the proverbial mother hen who sees to the needs of others. She makes provisions for herbs for the treatment of diseases, and she warns of impending danger just like in the civil war story I shared above, she teaches inspirational lessons and does more.
We started discussions on prebiotics. Let us proceed.
There is some truth to the recommendation by dieticians that increasing your intake of dietary fibre is a simple way to increase your intake of prebiotics, however, not all dietary fibres are prebiotics. It is hard to say if high-fibre foods also mean they are high in prebiotics. Although, all prebiotics are fibre in nature.
According to Dr. Vincent Pedre, author of The GutSMART Protocol, “Foods rich in prebiotics are like fish food for the gut flora. Cooking with onions and garlic can both flavour your food and improve your gut health. Raw onions and garlic are higher in prebiotics”.
He went on to say that ‘spices like ginger and turmeric can also support gut health and that ginger promotes gut motility and can ease a wide range of gastrointestinal complaints, like belching, bloating, indigestio,n and nausea. He says “Turmeric is anti-inflammatory and studies have shown that it can soothe digestive disorders, including irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease”
Most varieties of edible mushrooms are rich in carbohydrates like chitin, beta and alpha glucans and other compounds that act as prebiotics.
Not only do mushrooms contain prebiotics, but they also contain essential amino acids, as well as minerals, such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron and zinc which play a role in supporting our energy production and immune system.
Legume varieties are rich in protein, prebiotic carbohydrates and a range of micronutrients making them a great choice for gut health and overall health and wellbeing.
Incorporating more legumes containing prebiotic carbohydrates can positively alter the gut microbiome, helping regulate intestinal movement, increase mineral absorption and reduce obesity risk by regulating blood glucose and cholesterol levels. Examples are beans, chickpeas, Lentils, soya beans and Kidney beans
Flaxseeds are incredibly healthy. They are also a great source of prebiotics. The fibre in flaxseeds promotes healthy gut bacteria, encourages regular bowel movements and reduces the amount of dietary fat you digest and absorb.
Because they contain phenolic antioxidants, flaxseeds also have anticancer and antioxidant properties and help regulate blood sugar levels.
Chicory root comes from a flowering plant in the dandelion family. It is popular for its coffee-like flavour and has historically been used in cooking and medicine.
It is high in inulin, a prebiotic fibre, making it a rich source of prebiotics. Chicory root also aids digestion, has antioxidant properties and can alleviate constipation.
The Jerusalem artichoke also known as the sunroot, sunchoke or earth apple is part of the sunflower family and has great health benefits.
Known for its sunflower-like appearance, the vegetable provides about 2 grams of inulin-rich dietary fibre per 100 grams.
Inulin helps increase the friendly bacteria in your colon, promoting greater digestive health. It can also aid in the absorption of minerals in your large intestine.
Adding Jerusalem artichokes to your diet may help strengthen your immune system, lower cholesterol, and even prevent certain metabolic disorders.
The all belong to the onion family. In addition to being a good source of prebiotics, these foods aid digestion, boost beneficial gut bacteria and have antioxidant properties.
Asparagus is a popular vegetable and another great source of prebiotics.The nutritious vegetable naturally contains inulin, which can improve your digestive health and help your body maintain optimum levels of glucose and insulin.
Inulin is also a soluble fibre, which feeds the friendly bacteria in the gut, such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus.
Asparagus has been linked to the prevention of certain cancers and in vitro and animal studies show its combination of fibre and antioxidants also provides anti-inflammatory benefits
Last week, banana made the list of prebiotic rich foods, watermelon, pineapple, grapefruit, custard apple, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, Pomegranates, avocados are among.
Cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, collard greens, Brussels, broccoli, cauliflower, kale are great sources of prebiotic fibre.
Remember we already had a series on nuts. They are foods (prebiotics) for the bacteria (probiotics). Pistachios, cashew, almonds, hazelnuts, chestnuts are good examples.
We have had a series on seeds too Apart from flaxseeds, chia seeds are full of fibres with prebiotic effects. Some other examples are sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds.
A small study discovered that mice who consumed whole grain oat flour for eight weeks had significantly different microbiota than those who ate refined oat flour. The mice consuming the whole grain oat flour had twice as many Lactobacillaceae (a beneficial gut bacteria). Some other whole grains which are prebiotics are maize, sorghum ( guinea corn), millet , fonio (acha) and quinoa.
A study titled Prebiotic nut compounds and human microbiota by Rosa M. Lamuel-Raventos et al concludes that non-bioaccessible material from nuts, constituting mainly of polymerized polyphenols and polysaccharides, arriving in the colon intact seems to have a prebiotic effect.
A study titled Whole Grains and Digestive Health by Joanne Slavin concludes that whole grains contain all parts of the grain: the endosperm, germ and bran. Whole grains are rich in fermentable carbohydrates that reach the gut: dietary fibre, resistant starch, and oligosaccharides. It also confirms that some in vivo studies show the prebiotic potential of whole grains
There are still countless prebiotic-rich foods that did not make the list here, it is good to remind ourselves at this point that people who eat a balanced, varied, and healthful diet will get many prebiotics and probiotics through their food.