Top 17 Best Prebiotic Foods


It’s well-known that dietary fiber is good for digestive health—but prebiotics are a unique type of fiber that goes above and beyond the regular stuff. 

Prebiotic fibers are the fuel that probiotic bacteria consume to stay alive, stimulating the growth of healthy gut bacteria and leading to the production of short-chain fatty acids.

But the benefits of prebiotics go far beyond digestion, with links to brain and heart health, immune function, mental health, and more.

But if you don’t want to go the supplement route, you may wonder which foods are high in prebiotics—and we’ve got you covered with the ultimate list.

In this article, discover the top 17 best prebiotic-rich foods to add to your diet—some might surprise you!

Top 17 Best Prebiotic Foods- Onion- Garlic- Leeks- Jerusalem Artichokes- Chicory Root- Green Bananas- Oats- Whole Wheat Bran- Barley- Asparagus- Konjac Root- Apples- Potatoes- Beans and Lentils- Yacon Root- Jicama- Seaweed

Prebiotics Food List

From apples and asparagus to wheat bran and yacon root, we’ve got an entire alphabet full of prebiotic foods to choose from.

1. Onions

As one of the most commonly consumed prebiotics in the American diet, onions are loaded with inulin and FOS (fructooligosaccharides)—two of the most prevalent prebiotic fibers. 

Inulin is a soluble prebiotic fiber found in hundreds of plants.

Research has shown that the wide-reaching benefits of inulin include healthy weight management, blood sugar regulation, fat metabolism, and constipation relief. 

Like all prebiotics, FOS is known for boosting beneficial bacteria growth. But it also can increase nitric oxide production (a vasodilating compound linked to cardiovascular health), help with fat metabolism, lower blood cholesterol, and enhance mineral absorption. While all onions are nutritious, red onions may have more prebiotic potential—as well as higher levels of polyphenol antioxidants.

2. Garlic

As garlic is in the same family as onions (known as alliums), you can expect that it has the same types of prebiotics—mainly inulin and FOS. 

The prebiotics in garlic have been shown to promote the growth of healthy probiotic bacteria in your gut, including Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus acidophilus

FOS prebiotics are a highly fermentable type of fiber, which is why garlic and onions can cause digestive discomfort in many people (especially those who need to be on a low-FODMAP diet).

3. Leeks

Like garlic and onions, leeks are also high in FOS and inulin. 

Although less commonly consumed than other alliums, leeks are highly nutritious and offer unique antioxidants.

One such antioxidant is the flavonoid compound kaempferol, which is thought to protect against heart disease and some types of cancer.Leeks are also rich in allicin, a tremendously beneficial antioxidant found in garlic that gives them their subtle garlicky flavor.

4. Jerusalem Artichokes

Unlike the artichoke hearts you’ll find at a Whole Foods salad bar, Jerusalem artichokes (also known as sunchokes) look more like a knobby ginger root and taste similar to water chestnuts—and they’re loaded with prebiotic inulin fiber.

In a study with mice, consumption of Jerusalem artichokes led to beneficial changes to their gut microbiome, increased concentrations of short-chain fatty acids, and decreased intestinal pH. 

Jerusalem artichokes also contain insoluble fiber, which is great for promoting bowel movements and helping with constipation. 

If you’ve never cooked Jerusalem artichokes, treat them like potatoes or parsnips and roast, saute, or puree them into a creamy soup.

5. Chicory root

Chicory root is in the dandelion family and uniquely has similar tastes to coffee—in fact, when coffee was rationed in World War II, many families had cups of brewed chicory in the mornings instead. 

We know now that chicory is also rich in inulin, with up to 68% of the root’s fiber coming from inulin. 

One small study found that healthy adults who drank ​​chicory root extract for four weeks had significant reductions in hemoglobin A1C—a biomarker used to diagnose type 2 diabetes—and increases in adiponectin, a protein that helps to control blood glucose levels.  

As chicory is quite bitter, it’s not a food most people consume. Instead, it’s typically roasted and ground, then drunk as a coffee-like beverage or added to other foods as a supplemental prebiotic powder.

6. Green Bananas

Bananas are high in resistant starch—but only if they are green bananas, which are less ripe and lower in sugar.

As a banana ripens, its sugar content increases and its starch content decreases, making a ripe banana lower in prebiotics than greener ones. 

So, while ripe bananas are perfect for baking banana bread, they won’t give you much in the way of prebiotic fiber.Conversely, the resistant starch in green bananas is, as the name suggests, resistant to breakdown or absorption by our digestive system. This allows gut bacteria to feed on it, leading to the production of short-chain fatty acids like butyrate.

7. Oats

Oats provide a unique type of prebiotic fiber called beta-glucan, which is linked to reductions in LDL cholesterol, better blood sugar control, and anti-carcinogenic activity.

Whole oats also contain inulin and smaller amounts of resistant starch.

Research with Chinese adults with high cholesterol found that those eating 80g of oats per day for 45 days had significant reductions in total and LDL cholesterol compared to those eating the same amount of rice.The oat-eaters also improved their gut microbiomes, with increased activity of beneficial bacteria like Akkermansia muciniphila, which is linked to metabolic health and weight management.

8. Barley

Like oats, barley is a whole grain that contains prebiotics in the form of beta-glucan and inulin. 

In research with animals, barley-derived beta-glucan was found to improve several aspects of metabolic and gut health, including greater SCFA activity, reduced food intake, slower weight gain, and improved insulin sensitivity. 

Although most known for its role in beer production, a healthier way to consume barley is by substituting it in any recipe that calls for rice.

9. Whole Wheat Bran

Wheat bran is the outer layer of whole wheat that gets removed during processing to create white flour products. 

Bran-containing wheat is more nutritious than white flour products for many reasons, and its prebiotic content is one of them. 

Whole wheat bran contains a rare type of prebiotic fiber called arabinoxylan oligosaccharides (AXOS).

In a study with obese mice, the ones that consumed wheat bran extract had their metabolic disorders “completely abolished,” according to the authors.

Specifically, the AXOS-rich wheat bran extract normalized the obese mice’s high cholesterol, high blood sugar, high insulin, excess body fat, and liver fat, making their metabolic markers comparable to the control mice of healthy weights.

10. Asparagus

One of the more commonly consumed foods on this list, asparagus is a delicious vegetable that also contains plenty of inulin and FOS.

A 100-gram serving of asparagus (only 6 or 7 spears!) contains up to 3g of inulin. In comparison, many inulin supplements recommend doses of 5 grams. 

Plus, asparagus contains large amounts of glutathione—our body’s “master antioxidant” that aids in detoxification—and plenty of folate and vitamin C.

Just 10 cooked spears provide almost 50% of the daily requirement for folate and up to 33% of an adult’s needs for vitamin C.

11. Konjac root

Konjac root (aka elephant yam) is a tuber commonly consumed in Asian cultures for both culinary and medicinal purposes. 

The fiber in konjac root is almost exclusively glucomannan—up to 90% of it. 

Glucomannan is a unique prebiotic that suppresses appetite, improves carbohydrate metabolism, facilitates healthy bowel movements, and lowers unhealthy cholesterol. 

If konjac root isn’t often on the menu, you can try glucomannan supplements—one of our favorites is Nature’s Way Glucomannan Root. However, you don’t need to go hunting for the actual tuber itself to get the benefits—products like nuPasta use konjac root to make their low-carb, high-fiber noodles that actually taste like real pasta.

12. Apples

Apples—especially the skin—are rich in pectin, a soluble fiber with prebiotic qualities. 

Pectin has been found to help promote healthy body weight, lower inflammation, and increase butyrate production in the gut—one of the primary short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that benefit health. 

Butyrate is an essential nutrient that helps colonocytes (colon cells) grow and thrive. It promotes normal colon cell growth, supports healthy mucus production, and strengthens the intestinal barrier. One study with animals found that apple-derived pectin supplementation improved metabolic function and gut microbial diversity. Pectin was also shown to suppress inflammation, weight gain, and fat accumulation in obese rats.

13. Potatoes

A very specific type of potato—ones that have been cooked and then cooled—contains resistant starches with prebiotic activity. 

When potatoes are cooked and subsequently cooled (like, say, with a potato salad), the starch structure changes—it retrogrades into a form of resistant starch that our bodies do not digest. 

Therefore, cooled potatoes have a lessened effect on blood glucose (including a lower Glycemic Index) and can feed and stimulate the growth of good gut bacteria. In a randomized controlled trial published in Nutrients, people who consumed 3.5g of resistant potato starch for four weeks had significant improvements in beneficial gut bacteria (including Akkermansia and Bifidobacterium) and reductions in both diarrhea and constipation when compared to the placebo group.

14. Beans and Lentils

Prebiotic fibers found in beans and lentils of all types primarily include resistant starches and galactooligosaccharides (GOS).

Beans and legumes are also among the best sources of plant-based protein and dietary fiber, providing approximately 18 grams of protein and 15 grams of fiber per cup.  

In a review published in Nutrients, the authors state that consuming just two-thirds of a cup of pulses (aka most beans, lentils, or other legumes) per day is enough to improve cardiovascular health and SCFA production in the gut significantly.

Like potatoes, consuming cooked-then-cooled beans and legumes can also boost their resistant starch activity.

15. Yacon Root

Yacón root is a root vegetable typically grown in the Peruvian Andes. It looks similar to a sweet potato but tastes like an apple crossed with a watermelon with the texture of water chestnuts. Although yacón is commonly known as jicama in Ecuador, the two are very different. 

This unique vegetable is particularly rich in FOS and inulin prebiotics. Unlike most root vegetables, yacon root can be eaten raw. 

Research has found that the inulin in yacon can increase beneficial gut bacteria, reduce constipation, modulate immune system functioning, and regulate cholesterol metabolism. Yacon root syrup is a lower-glycemic sweetener that is becoming more popular in the U.S.–in fact, one of our trusted brands, ROWDY, uses yacon root syrup in their collagen-based products.

16. Jicama

Native to Mexico and Central America, jicama is another root vegetable commonly consumed raw. Its texture resembles a water chestnut, and its taste is similar to a very mild apple or even a potato. 

Jicama is very low in calories and high in fiber, especially the prebiotic fiber inulin.

Research in animals has found that jicama root can prevent excessive blood sugar spikes, suppress weight gain, and help with glucose tolerance in mice that were fed a high-sugar diet. 

If these results translate to humans, it may suggest that eating jicama regularly could blunt or mitigate some of the effects of consuming too much sugar. However, we’d have to get randomized controlled trials in humans to see if this is true.

17. Seaweed

Although it was previously thought that only land-growing plants were sources of prebiotics, more recent research suggests that aquatic plants like seaweed also fit the bill. 

Studies have shown that seaweed polysaccharides are able to increase SCFA production in the gut. 

Polysaccharide prebiotics in seaweed include fucoidans from brown seaweeds, agars and sulfated galactans from red seaweeds, and ulvans and sulfated glycans from green seaweeds. 

Interestingly, research with animals has found that fucoidan extract from edible brown algae ameliorated symptoms of ulcerative colitis and reduced inflammatory pathology in mice.This beneficial effect on inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis may be due to seaweed’s prebiotic content as well as its anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidant activity.

Prebiotic Foods FAQs

What are the main types of prebiotics?

Although there are likely many more yet to be discovered or studied, some of the main types of prebiotic fibers found in foods we eat include:
• Inulin
• Beta-glucan
• FOS (fructooligosaccharides, also known as oligofructose)
• GOS (galactooligosaccharides)
• Arabinooligosaccharides
• Arabinoxylan-oligosaccharides (AXOS)
• Isomaltooligosaccharides
• Guar gum
• Resistant starches
• Lactulose (a synthetic prebiotic that is not found naturally in food)

What are prebiotics good for?

There are two primary mechanisms by which prebiotics are thought to support gut health (and overall health):
• Prebiotics stimulate the growth of healthy gut bacteria.
• Prebiotics increase short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) production in the gut, which has several helpful downstream effects.

Because of these reasons, the health benefits of prebiotics include, including:
• Reducing dysbiosis and promoting a healthy gut microbiome 
• Constipation
• Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
• Inflammatory bowel disease (more so ulcerative colitis than Crohn’s disease) 
• Heart health and risk factors for cardiovascular disease
• Metabolism, appetite, and weight management
• Bone density and bone remineralization
• Brain health and markers of cognition 
• Immune system functioning
• Reduction in the risk of colorectal cancer

For more information, head over to these articles for an in-depth look at What Prebiotics Are and The Benefits of Prebiotics.

What fruit has the most prebiotics?

Apples and green bananas (the less-ripe kinds) are the fruits highest in prebiotics.

What foods are high in prebiotics?

Many plant foods are rich in prebiotics, including onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, apples, wheat bran, barley, oats, Jerusalem artichoke, chicory, green bananas, cooked-then-cooled potatoes, yacon root, jicama, seaweed, beans, and lentils.

What vegetable has the most prebiotics?

Many vegetables are high in prebiotics, including garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, jicama, yacon root, potatoes (when cooked, then cooled), and seaweed.

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