What are Prebiotics?
Indigestible dietary fiber beneficial to the digestive system, originating from a
plant source. Prebiotics serve as a food source for bacteria already living within the large intestine to derive energy for survival as well as increased positive bacterial growth. A rule of thumb to help differentiate between prebiotic and probiotic is pr-O-biotics are Operational in the intestine while pr-E-biotics are Eaten by the bacteria. Consumers who meet the daily suggested 5-8 servings of fruits and vegetables daily consume enough prebiotics to benefit health.
In addition, consumption of prebiotic, in conjunction with probiotic live bacteria, is extremely beneficial to digestive health. Unlike a probiotic, a prebiotic source is heat tolerant, cold tolerant, and tolerant to a wide spectrum of acidity levels. Such a characteristic of less sensitivity enables prebiotics to be utilized prior to the baking process increasing usage options.
Functional foods are items which have added benefit, more so than their original source,
such as a loaf of bread containing prebiotics. Functional foods help cover the deficit of
nutrition many consumers face from lack of fruit or vegetable consumption. Prebiotics
are most often contained in breads aiming to attract a consumer market focused on
health benefits, such as breads integrating green tea, tomato paste, herbs, or fruits high
in inulin, such as bananas.
- Inulin: Most common source of prebiotic. Plants containing fructan or vegetables such as onion, leek, garlic, asparagus, chicory root, and ar tichoke contain a high amount of inulin. In regard to baking, inulin can be added to biscuits, breads, muffins, crackers, and even cereals, to provide additional health benefits. Inulin increases calcium absorption within the body, so bakers often add inulin when desiring a baked good with increased calcium levels.
- Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS): Helps increase bacterial growth within the large intestine, often supplied in conjunction with probiotic sources.
- Isomalto-oligosaccharides: Made of glucose polymers derived from enzymes.
- Lactilol: Heightens growth of bacteria within the colon. May be used as a substitute for sugar.
- Lactulose: Formed from lactose and fructose; is semisynthetic.
- Pyrodextrins: Synthesized from starch.
- Transgalacto-oligosaccharides: Mixture of glucose and galactose polymers.