08 Apr 2016
The Importance of Prebiotics & a Spotlight on Tigernuts
Not to be confused with “PRObiotics”, “PREbiotics” refer to all the different kinds of fibre that encourage beneficial species of gut flora to grow in your digestive tract. Unfortunately for us FODMAP-ers, prebiotics are what we call “indigestible fibre”, as they are very difficult for our body to break down. However, your gut flora is capable of digesting them – and more food for the gut flora means more flora & better gut health. Any easy way to remember the distinction between the two is that:
- PREbiotics provide food for the bacteria already living in your gut.
- PRObiotics provide a direct infusion of bacteria that weren’t there before.
While you’ve heard me bang on about the importance of including plenty of probiotic-rich supplements and food into your diet to improve and maintain good gut health (especially as they help to digest protein & fats), prebiotics are just as important. But wait … most prebiotics are naturally high in FODMAPs.
Some foods high in prebiotic fibres include:
- Dandelion greens
- Garlic and onions (and any vegetables in that family, e.g. leeks)
- Chicory (used in coffee substitutes)
… all foods that make us FODMAP-ers tremble in our boots.
There are only a very small handful of people who I would steer clear of prebiotics.
- Those on the elimination phase of the low FODMAP diet: while prebiotics are incredibly beneficial and necessary for overall health and wellbeing, the aim of the elimination diet is to heal a damaged digestive tract, which cannot be done if you continue to fuel it with nutrients that are hard to break down. Soo … for the 6-8 weeks of the elimination diet it is ok to abstain from prebiotics, provided they are introduced during the re-introduction phase
- People with Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) often find that prebiotics do the exact opposite of what they need (if you already have bacterial overgrowth, feeding them even more is not going to help)
So why all this talk about prebiotics? Well, a good friend of mine from the states has been on my back for ages now, wanting me to try out prebiotic-rich Tigernuts. In the serving sizes required, these delicious little nut-like root veggies (like nothing you’ve ever tried before) are actually low FODMAP! They are making a huge wave in the health foodie community overseas, but I was put off by the huge shipping costs to Australia. So, you can imagine my delight when I discovered Terra Firma Foods, an Australian based company owned by two lovely sister – Biz & Pen. They introduced me to the world of Tigernuts and I can confess, I’m obsessed!
Here’s just some of the reasons why I love Tigernuts:
- They are small root vegetables also known as tubers. Potatoes and sweet potatoes are some of their relatives.
- They are one of the world’s oldest sources of nutrition, accounting for up to 80% of Nutcracker Man’s diet between 2.4 and 1.4 million years ago
- They are dairy, gluten and nut free – great for sensitive bellies!
- They are extremely high in fibre, vitamins C & E, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, potassium
- They are a great source of good fats like oleic acid (of the olive oil family). In fact, their oil is almost identical in composition to olive oil.!
- (Here’s the best bit): they are full of resistant starch (RS), a prebiotic starch that acts as food for the friendly bacteria in the intestine. RS aids digestive health, improves insulin sensitivity and lowers blood sugar levels.
So how do you use these strange little morsels of joy?
- Eat them as a scrumptious snack like you would nuts
- Pop them in porridge, overnight oats, grain-based dishes, & chia seed puddings
- Blend them with your favourite smoothies or pulse them to use in your raw treat bases – note: you can also buy Tigernut flour here if you don’t have a food processor
- Make Tigernut milk (recipe below).
The important thing with Tigernuts is to start with small serving sizes … remember prebiotics don’t have to be consumed in huge servings to reap their medicinal effects. My recommendation would be to start with 10 – 20 nuts, then build up from there. I would also suggest starting with the peeled variety, as they are marginally lower in resistant starch. If you soak Tigernuts overnight in the fridge, instead of becoming soggy (like you’d expect), they actually swell up and become crunchier! Lordy nature is a funny thing isn’t it?! Here’s my favourite #FODMAPfriendly #prebioticrich tiger nut milk recipe:
Blend the following Nourishing Ingredients in a high speed blender & then strain with a nut milk bag or cheesecloth (keep the pulp to use in meals/raw treats etc):
- 2 cups raw peeled Tigernuts
- 4 cups filtered water
- ¼ tsp. Himalayan sea salt
- Dress it up as you like – some delicious combos include: a sprinkle each of vanilla, cinnamon & nutmeg + 1 tbsp pure maple syrup OR 1 banana & 1 tbsp raw cacao (not cocoa) powder OR ½ tbsp. green tea Matcha powder + 1 tbsp maple syrupI’d like to leave you with a friendly reminder that PREbiotics are your friends … and once your digestive system has begun to heal, it’s important you start introducing pre-biotic rich food so that the probiotics you’re spending a fortune on don’t die before they’ve had a chance to keep you healthy.
Here’s to happy gut bacteria!! 😀