Autumn is upon us, and with it comes a plethora of common infections such as cold and flu, making it an optimum time to safeguard our immune systems.
While most are familiar with the benefits of probiotics on gut health and balancing good and bad bacteria, what is less understood are the health benefits of prebiotics in foods, despite the growing evidence that prebiotics, which include resistant starch found in whole grain, high fibre grain foods like legumes – have a similar effect on our bodies as probiotics, according to the Grains and Legumes Nutrition Council (GLNC).
We already understand that our immune responses are fuelled by diet, which is why there is an increased demand for energy and essential nutrients to produce the cells required for a specific immune response.
A special type of dietary fibre that ferments in the digestive system, prebiotics help feed the beneficial bacteria in the gut, improving the activity of lactobacilli, bifidobacteria and other bacteria species (probiotics) that produce protective components and deliver health benefits.
“Enjoying a balanced diet including foods rich in prebiotics helps to feed our immune system to fight and avoid common infections like cold and flu,” explained Chris Cashman, Nutrition Project Officer at GLNC – the authority on the nutrition and health benefits of grains and legumes.
“In the same way as regularly consuming probiotics, enjoying a range of whole grain or high fibre grain foods, legumes and a variety of vegetables may also enhance immune health. This is through a prebiotic effect – an increase in the balance of beneficial bacteria in the digestive system which provide a range of health benefits including improved immune responses.”