Prebiotic Recipes That Will Make You Healthy

Prebiotic foods containing insoluble fiber are one of the six keys to health and longevity.

Prebiotic foods containing insoluble fiber are one of the six keys to health and longevity.

Understanding the Role of Food in the Current Biological Revolution

The idea that food is the most important variable for human health is as old as Hippocrates, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

Being conscious of the effects of the Western lifestyle and the Standard American Diet (“SAD”), I have been on Mediterranean low carb diet and free of gluten, dairy, soy and sugar since 1997.

Avoiding harmful substances, I thought that I was eating a healthy diet. I now know that it was not enough. There is a group of essential foods called prebiotics that affect many metabolic processes.

In a NOVA interview on PBS, Mark Mehler, Director of the Institute for Brain Disorders and Neural Regeneration at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine explained, “We’re in the midst of probably the biggest revolution in biology that is going to forever transform the way we understand genetics, environment, the way the two interact, what causes disease.” This revolution has already made substantial changes to our understanding of epigenetics, our microbiome, gut microbiota and prebiotic foods.

Epigenetics

The revolutionary idea regarding epigenetics is that you and I have the power to influence our genetic inheritance. While we cannot change our genes, it is possible to influence how our genes are activated or “expressed.” It turns out that lifestyle choices such as diet, exercise, sleep and stress management influence our genetic expression.

Microbiome  

New research also seems to indicate that our lifestyle choices and diet also affect our microbiome, the 100 trillion microorganisms that live in and on our bodies. The microbiome factors into whether we experience allergies, asthma, ADHD, cancer, diabetes, obesity or dementia. Furthermore, the microbiome affects mood, libido, metabolism, immunity and even the clarity of your thinking.

Furthermore, by changing our food and our lifestyle, we can change our microbiome and our health. In Grain Brain, David Perlmutter states, “Beyond calories, fat, protein, and micronutrients, we now understand that food is a powerful epigenetic modulator—meaning it can change our DNA for better or worse.”

Gut Microbiota(Micro-bi-”oh”-ta)

Key to the functioning of the microbiome is the gut microbiota, especially the colon where the microbial ecosystem plays an important role in the normal functioning of the entire body including the brain and cognitive functions.

The gut microbiota is involved in immune system functioning, detoxification, inflammation, neurotransmitter and vitamin production, nutrient absorption, signaling being hungry or satiated, and utilizing carbohydrates and fats. (1)

The Western diet is altering our gut microbiota in troubling ways through antimicrobials, sterile food, additives, calorie-dense foods, and the lack of prebiotic fiber in the diet. While the gut microbiota’s metabolic activity is both adaptable and renewable, some scientists believe that the system cannot adjust fast enough. (2) This leads us to the importance of the foods we eat … and don’t eat.

Simple Changes Can Make a Big Difference  

David Perlmutter, in his pioneering book Brain Maker, offers six keys to physical and cognitive health. The six keys that nurture the gut microbiota are prebiotics, probiotics, fermented foods, low-carb foods, gluten-free foods, and healthful fats.

Prebiotics

Prebiotics are fiber-rich foods composed of non-digestible functional fiber with three characteristics:

  1. Prebiotics can pass into the large intestines without being broken down by gastric acids and digestion enzymes.
  2. Prebiotic fiber is either fermented or metabolized by the probiotics in the large intestine.
  3. Prebiotics must confer health benefits.

Prebiotics are important because they nourish a microbial ecosystem stimulating the growth of probiotics, and they impact the microbiome.

You can already see that your personal dietary considerations are far more complex than just not eating sugar or choosing a diet such as Paleo, Vegan, Atkins, and others.


Prebiotics: How Much Do You Need?  

The recommended daily amount is at least 5 grams of prebiotic-dense food a day. Most people eat between 2 to 3 grams of prebiotic fiber a day. Foods on the chart below were selected based on a high insoluble fiber content and the health benefits they confer. Information was gathered from a variety of sources (3).


Table of Prebiotic Vegetables

Vegetables Cooked Raw or Fermented Serving Insoluble Fiber (grams)
Artichoke C 1 md 7.00
Daikon radishes R 1 cup 5.00
Sweet Potatoes R 1 cup 4.80
Dandelion Greens C & R 1 cup 4.00
Cauliflower R & C 1 cup 3.50
Jicama R 1 cup 3.10
Rutabaga C, F, R 1 cup 2.60
Jerusalem artichokes C 1 cup 2.40
Asparagus R, F & C 1 cup 2.20
Carrots R & C 1 cup 1.70
Leeks R & C 1 cup 1.60
Beets R, F, C 1 cup 1.50
Radish R 1 cup 1.40
Cabbage F, R, C 1 cup 1.30
Onions raw R & C 1 cup 1.10
Cucumbers F & R 1 cup  .60
Garlic R & C 1 tsp 0.18
Chicory Root*


Table of Prebiotic Fruits

Fruits Cooked Raw or Fermented Serving Insoluble Fiber (grams)
Raspberries R 1 cup 7.20
Black Berries R 1 cup 6.20
Blue Berries R 1 cup 3.50
Apples w/skin R 1 cup 2.70
Mango R 1 md 2.20
Green Bananas C & F 1 md 2.10
Tomatoes R 1 cup 1.80


Prebiotics: Fermented Foods

Traditional fermented foods are a rich source of prebiotics.  These include kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, pickles, miso, tempeh, natto, kimchi, raw cheese, and yogurt.


Prebiotics: Other Sources

Other prebiotic foods include raw honey, dark chocolate, coconut flour, quinoa, flax seeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, legumes, wild rice, ginger root, and the bark of the larch tree.


Making a Choice for Health

Change is made easier when we are highly motivated by something we want to be or do. Alzheimer’s disease has taken the lives of so many of the people that I love including my maternal grandmother, my mother and two of my three uncles.

When the love of my life, Paul, was diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, I knew it was time to take action. I was greatly empowered by Dale E. Bredesen’s The End of Alzheimer’s: The First Program to Prevent and Reverse Cognitive Decline. His groundbreaking demonstration on how lifestyle can positively influence our genetic expression and longevity has empowered me to research, write and explore lifestyle changes that can make a difference.

Food is tied to convenience, love, comfort, holidays, identity, belonging and home. Even though it is easy to prepare a new recipe, it is difficult to change the way we eat.

We can improve our physical and cognitive health. Are you ready to commit to your health and longevity? People who write down their goals are far more likely to achieve them. So, take the time to think about your goals. What do you want?

Your Reaction to Foods is Unique

If you replace fruits and vegetables with a high glycemic index with prebiotic fruits and vegetables with a lower glycemic index you will reduce spiking glucose levels.

The work of Eran Segal at the Weizmann Institute of Science has found that our reactions to foods are very personal. The best diet does not depend on the foods we eat, but rather on our personal response to specific foods.

Here is a personal example. Paul, my partner, and I are both blood type O. We enjoyed the delicious tabbouleh recipe below one evening. Even though cauliflower, cucumbers, and tomatoes are all on Dr. Peter J. D’Amado’s  avoid category for blood type O, Paul felt great without any indigestion. I, on the other hand, felt uncomfortable all night and I experienced Ex-Lax effect in the morning.

A helpful first step to individualizing your diet

Start Low and Go Slow

For the most part, the fiber in the prebiotic foods will result in fewer glucose spikes and in smoother, softer, and more regular bowel movements.

Monitoring and reducing glucose levels is vital in reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s considered to be type 3 diabetes. I purchased a LifeScan One Touch Ultramini Glucose Monitoring System.

I removed the remaining products containing sugar like salad dressings and ketchup from the refrigerator and began exploring high fiber recipes. Within one week, I had more energy than I have had in 10 years.

Begin the process slowly by adding new foods gradually and by listening to your physical responses. You may want to keep a food diary.

Warning: Consult your doctor before beginning a new diet. If you have food allergies or are concerned about reactions to new foods, you may want to read Peter J. D’Adamo’s book Eat Right 4 Your Blood Type. In addition to all the information on the blood types, the book categories foods as recommended, neutral and avoid foods. This may be a helpful first step towards personalizing your diet.

Delicious Prebiotic Recipes

Eating new foods and preparing foods in a different manner is easier when you have delicious recipes.  Let’s explore some ideas.

Preparing Prebiotic Foods: Raw or Cooked?

As with most foods, cooking changes the composition of the fiber. While we do not know exactly how much fiber is lost from cooking, in most instances it is safe to assume that raw foods are better. If you find it necessary to cook prebiotic foods it is preferable to steam rather than to boil or sauté. Some foods are only consumed cooked, these are indicated in the table above. Some foods are better fermented. This is also indicated on the table.

Artichoke

In addition to their great taste and versatility in recipes, artichokes are high in insoluble fiber and antioxidants.  Their nutrients work to prevent heart disease and cancer. Artichokes lower inflammation in the body and nourish the liver and digestive tract. Amanda Greene has an interesting post explaining the best method for preparing artichokes.

Artichokes are loaded with prebiotic insoluble fiber.

Artichokes are loaded with prebiotic insoluble fiber.

Daikon Radish

This member of the radish family has a variety of names including mooli, Chinese radish, Satsuma radish and Japanese radish. Daikon means “big root” in Japanese. The daikon radish has a pungent and peppery flavor that adds a spark to salads. To make this recipe a brain health recipe substitute the canola oil high in omega 6 for an olive oil high in omega 3.  Click here for a delicious daikon and carrot recipe.

Daikon Radish a prebiotic food

Daikon Radish a prebiotic food

Raw Sweet Potato

I did not think I would enjoy a raw sweet potato salad even though the recipe had many ingredients that I like including currants, curry, cinnamon, walnuts and almond butter. For the sake of this blog, I prepared the recipe. I was really surprised. So if you don’t think you would like a Raw Sweet Potato recipe, I encourage you to try it once.

Sweet potatoes, offer substantial nutritional benefits to offset their impact on blood sugar. (4) Research has found these root veggies may actually play a role in stabilizing blood sugar. (5)

Recommended serving size is ½ a cup. Tamari soy sauce is a centuries-old beloved seasoning. Kikkoman produces a certified non-GMO tamari soy sauce.  A good substitution for the tamari soy sauce is Bragg’s Amino Acids. I hope you are as surprised as I was with this Raw Sweet Potatoe Recipe.

Dandelion Greens

Blanching dandelion greens removes some of the bitterness from this prebiotic food.

Blanching dandelion greens removes some of the bitterness.

In addition to their prebiotic benefits, dandelion greens are very high in vitamin-K providing 535 percent of the recommended daily amount. This makes dandelion greens very beneficial in promoting bone health and in fighting Alzheimer’s disease.

Blanching dandelion greens by immersing them in boiling water for 20 to 30 seconds will help to reduce acrid taste and make them much more palatable. This recipe combines garlic, olive oil, and almonds. Click here for a blanched dandelion recipe.

 

Cauliflower

In addition to its insoluble fiber, cauliflower is an anti-inflammatory and high in antioxidants. Cauliflower contains impressive amounts of vitamin C, K, and beta-carotene. Its detoxification and cancer-fighting properties make cauliflower a true superfood. Cauliflower can be grated and substituted for rice, quinoa, and bulgur wheat in recipes reducing carbohydrates.

This cauliflower version of the traditional Mediterranean tabbouleh salad will allow you to enjoy a delicious recipe rich in prebiotics and low in carbohydrates.

As I mentioned earlier in the blog, I did not sleep well the evening after I enjoyed this delicious tabbouleh salad. You might say well just don’t eat it. The problem is that the lectin proteins that cause indigestion also impart health benefits. So here are three adjustments that will help you enjoy the tabbouleh recipe.

Peel the tomatoes. Here is the fastest method to peel tomatoes.

Peel the cucumbers and remove the seeds. Here is the most efficient way to remove cucumber seeds.

Substitute the cauliflower with quinoa

If you want to skip the work of preparing tabbouleh, you might be interested in cauliflower steaks. In addition to the cauliflower’s insoluble fiber, this recipe contains the spices ginger, turmeric, and cumin that all confer health benefits. Add additional nutritional insoluble fiber by serving the cauliflower steaks over quinoa.

 

Tabbouleh, a Mediterranean recipe loaded with prebiotic insoluble fiber

Substituting the bulgur wheat in the traditional tabbouleh Mediterranean recipe with cauliflower or quinoa results in a delicious salad high in prebiotic insoluble fiber.

 Jicama

Jicama is a tuberous root sometimes called a Mexican yam bean or Mexican turnip. Its large size and bark can seem ominous but do not let it dissuade you from slicing it to discover its sweet juicy and slightly nutty flavor. In addition to its flavor, the jicama offers health benefits derived from its unique mixture of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and insoluble dietary fiber. Nutrients include vitamin C, vitamin E, folate, vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, potassium, magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, and a small amount of protein.

Jicama is a tuberous root that is juicy, lightly sweet, and loaded with prebiotic fiber.

Jicama is a tuberous root that is juicy, lightly sweet, and loaded with prebiotic fiber.

 

Jicama can be sliced like French fries. Add some spark by sprinkling the French fries with lime juice and Trader Joe’s Chile Lime Seasoning.  If you would like a little more heat my favorite is El Tajin Classico Seasoning.

Jicama can also be cut into small cubes and tossed in a salad. The Jicama adds crunch to your salad while at the same time soaking in the flavors of the salad dressing or balsamic vinegar. Grated jicama can also be added to coleslaw. And finally, jicama sticks can also be cultured.

Jicama Slaw: it was difficult to find a good jicama slaw recipe because most of the recipes included items that are not part of the brain healthy diet such as sugar and canola oil. In addition to jicama, this recipe also includes other prebiotic foods –cabbage, apples, and cucumbers making it a fiber-rich recipe.

 

Rutabaga

Not to be confused with its relative the turnip, rutabagas are much richer in essential nutrients. Sometimes called Swedes, this root vegetable is high in insoluble fiber, vitamin C, and potassium. The flavorful root is very versatile. It can be eaten raw, pickled, baked, roasted, sautéed or steamed. Rutabagas can also be used in soups stews and casseroles. Rutabagas are a great substitute for potatoes such as in this latkes recipe.

atkes made from rutabaga are a delicious prebiotic fiber rich substitute for potatoes

Latkes made from rutabaga are a delicious prebiotic fiber rich substitute for potatoes

Jerusalem Artichokes

Sometimes called sunchokes, this root vegetable has a mild slightly sweet flavor, allowing it blend easily with other foods. The vegetable is not an artichoke. It originated in North America and it has nothing to do with the Holy Land. The Jerusalem artichokes are grown by small organic farmers and they are only available seasonally from late October to early March.

The friendly intestinal bacteria that digest the Jerusalem artichoke produce carbon dioxide as a byproduct thus earning the name, fartichoke. In addition to farts, the Jerusalem artichokes can also have an Ex-Lax effect. So, if you are inclined to try this prebiotic start with a very small amount in the privacy of your home.

I have not tried the roasted Jerusalem recipe or the aged-balsamic vinegar recipe because the sunchokes were out of season when I began this research project.

Jerusalem Artichoke

Jerusalem Artichoke

Asparagus: I didn’t think I would like raw asparagus. So, I cut them into tiny little pieces and added only one spear into a tossed salad. Depending on the size of the spears I now sometimes add as many as two per person. If eating raw asparagus doesn’t appeal to you, try fermented asparagus. It is easy to make homemade fermented asparagus in a mason jar. If neither raw nor fermented appeal to you steam them lightly.

Carrots: Raw carrots can be included in vegetable dishes and salads. For brain and gut health, it is important to stay away from added ingredients such as mayonnaise. Two recipes are hyperlinked, allowing you to explore something deliciously different. The first raw carrot recipe includes mint, ginger, and kelp. Omit the corn because like rice and potatoes it can cause a surge in insulin. Yes, diabetics can eat carrots. Recommended serving size is ½ a cup.

The second Moroccan raw carrot recipe is traditionally prepared with very potent chile peppers.  This recipe offers several options to adjust the heat.  To make this recipe healthier substitute the canola high in omega 6 with extra virgin olive oil high in omega 3.

Leeks

If you would like a milder and tastier substitute for raw onions you might to consider leeks. In addition to their great taste, leeks contain numerous vitamins including folic acid, niacin potassium, iron, magnesium, zinc, vitamin-A, C, K and E. In addition to the vitamins, leeks contain the mineral zinc. If that were not enough, leeks also contain lutein, a powerful antioxidant that fights cancer and promotes cardiovascular health and weight loss. Here is a simple and delicious leek salad prepared with leeks, tomatoes, and cucumbers.

Leeks provide a milder and tastier substitute for raw onions

Leeks provide a milder and tastier substitute for raw onion


Beets

Until I fell in love with the spiralized beets served in the Whole Foods salad bar, I never have considered eating a raw beet. To prepare my new found love at home, I purchased a spiralizer. The first spiralizer I purchased was a Cool-Shop Vegetable Spiralizer Bundle. It worked well on zucchini, but not on beets. I regretted the purchase. I wished for a Brieftons 5-Blade Spiralizer (BR-5B-02) that is a spiral slicer, vegetable maker, shredder!  It can make zucchini noodles, veggie spaghetti, as well as beet noodles.

Beets can be eaten raw just like carrots. He is a simple beet salad. For a salad with additional prebiotics (carrots, ginger, cabbage or yogurt) try this delicious beet salad.  To be sure you are using “real” yogurt look for the National Yogurt Association (NYA) Live & Active Cultures Yogurt seal on the package.

Raw Onions

Green onions are easy to add to a salad. One delicious way to eat raw onions is in Mexican Street Tacos, the simple street tacos that are traditional in Mexico’s Federal District. While traditional street tacos are prepared with steak, the recipe can also be prepared with brisket, beef skirt, chicken, fish, and other cuts of beef such as barbacoa. Because carbohydrates are greatly reduced on the Alzheimer’s prevention diet, I use large lettuce leaves instead of corn tortillas. My preference is for the more pliable red leaf lettuce though iceberg and romaine will work. For a special occasion, I will use the Plant Strong tortillas made by Engine 2.

Mexican Street Tacos a delicious way to eat raw prebiotic onions

Mexican Street Tacos a delicious way to eat raw prebiotic onions

Raw Garlic

Garlic was recognized as a superfood as early as 2600 BC. Garlic reduces cholesterol, lowers blood pressure, detoxifies heavy metals, strengthens bones, and is high in nutrients. Garlic is especially important to Alzheimer’s prevention because it reduces oxidative stress illuminating free radicals. Brain health begins in the gut and in the gut garlic kills the bad bacteria and nourishes good bacteria. Garlic has also been used to treat a variety of ailments including atherosclerosis, stroke, cancer, immune disorders, arthritis, and cataract formation. Here are four recipes for raw garlic.

Garlic is a superfood

Garlic is a superfood

Guacamole provides prebiotic fiber from raw garlic, onions and tomato.

Guacamole provides prebiotic fiber from raw garlic, onions, and tomatoes.

Raw Garlic and Onions in Guacamole: Allows you to enjoy red, white or yellow raw onions, tomatoes, and garlic. I can’t handle the peppers so I make mine without peppers. It is still delicious. This guacamole recipe has instructions on how to de-flame the onions making them more palatable. Garlic is not included in this recipe. If you wish to try the raw garlic begin with one clove for four serving.

Raw Garlic Shots: When consuming a garlic shot start with just ½ garlic clove. Chop very fine. Drizzle with olive oil and let it sit for 15 minutes. Then chase it down with water. While garlic is an amazing superfood it is a gastrointestinal stimulant. The intense taste will activate saliva flow and digestive enzymes that could keep you from sleeping. So, the best time to do a garlic shot in the morning.

If you use garlic as often as I do, you may want to consider a Rosle stainless steel garlic press. It is more expensive than other garlic presses but the ease of cleaning makes it worth every penny.

Raw Garlic Warning: Do not overdose yourself with this superfood. It will change your underarm odor. Consult your doctor before consuming garlic If you are pregnant, allergic to garlic, suffering from a stomach ulcer, IBS, IBD, or if you have had an intestinal surgery consult your doctor.

 

Chicory Root

Today, it is not likely that you can find chicory root in a grocery store.   Chicory root is used for its inulin, a rich binding soluble fibered, used in the production of highly-processed foods such as fiber bars and deceptively sugary “high-fiber” breakfast cereals. You can still enjoy the benefits from leaf chicories such as radicchio, frisée (also called curly endive or simply chicory), Belgian endive and escarole. You may already be consuming these chicories as they are commonly included in pre-chopped salad mixes and baby greens sold in grocery stores.


Prebiotic Fruits and Recipes

Prebiotic Fruits: In the prebiotic fruit category, I am only going to cover strawberries, green bananas and mangos as most people will be very familiar with the other prebiotic fruits.

Strawberries

Purchase Organic Strawberries.  The Environmental Working Group produces a list of fruits and vegetables with the highest levels of pesticide residue called the Dirty Dozen. Strawberries are number one and apples are number four are on the list. To reduce toxins, purchase organic strawberries and apples.

The extra expense incurred when purchasing organic strawberries is worth your health and peace of mind.

The extra expense incurred when purchasing organic strawberries is worth your health and peace of mind.

Green Bananas

Green bananas are yellow bananas that have not ripened. Unlike ripe bananas, green bananas contain high levels of resistant starch making it a desirable prebiotic food. Also unlike yellow bananas, green bananas help control blood sugar, manage weight and lower blood cholesterol levels making it a desirable food for individuals suffering from Type 2 Diabetes.

Another difference between yellow bananas green bananas is that green bananas must be cooked.  The preferred method of preparing green bananas is boiling.

Pickled Green Bananas (Guineos en Escabeche)  are a traditional dish from the Puerto Rico combines onions, garlic, and olives in a mix of flavors worth the effort to prepare.

 

Unlike yellow bananas were high in prebiotic fiber.

Unlike yellow bananas, green bananas are high in prebiotic fiber.

Mango

The king of fruits is surprising. Although it is very sweet, it only has one more calorie than an apple. While mango can be combined with legumes (black beans), quinoa, ginger, onions, and greens to make an incredible salad beware of the total glycemic load. Use it sparingly to add interest. Mangos come in different varieties just like apples. My favorite mangos are the Ataúlfo mangos. These mangos are smaller between 6 to 10 ounces. Their flesh is not fibrous and they have a small slim pit.

Mango a prebiotic fruit

I hope my blog helps you make prebiotic foods a delightful culinary experience and adds to you your health. Bon Appetite!

Please comment: I would love to hear from you.

 

Rejuvenating Lifestyle

Diana-Liz Gallego Rejuvenating Lifestyle & Rejuvenating Dance

 

Rejuvenating Lifestyle™ website and blog are dedicated to easy, no cost/ low cost and comfortable lifestyle changes that promote health and longevity. A retired school teacher, Diana-Liz also teaches Rejuvenating Dance™ and meditation in Dallas, Texas.

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