Gut Healthy Foods – What to include, rather than remove, this year
Gut health… Everyone’s talking about it, but what really is gut health and what gut healthy foods are right for you?
Gut health refers to the balance of microorganisms that are living in our digestive tract. Looking after the health of our guts and ensuring we maintain the right balance of these microorganisms is key for our physical and mental health, overall immunity, wellbeing and more.
There is a lot of noise around what we should be removed when it comes to our gut health- gluten and dairy have been demonised and undergoing a restrictive diet seems to be the magic pill to curing all things bloating! However, this is definitely not the case, and including, rather than removing certain foods in our diet can actually help our gut microbes when it comes to living happy, healthy lives.
GUT HEALTHY FOODS
Fermented foods are an all-natural source of probiotics (live bacteria) and regular consumption of them may help to improve gut health and reinoculate the gut with good bacteria.
Aim to consume the following foods regularly – pick one or two and enjoy not just for health benefits but also for the different flavours and textures!
- Fermented vegetables
EAT PREBIOTIC FIBRE
Probiotics feed on nondigestible carbohydrates called prebiotics- this process encourages our beneficial bacteria to multiply and flourish in the gut.
If you want to enhance your overall gut health, try including more of the following prebiotic-rich foods in your diet daily:
- Jerusalem artichokes
- Not too ripe bananas
Polyphenols are another type of prebiotic that can work to feed the bifidobacteria in the gut, therefore increasing the population of good bacteria, promoting overall gut health. Also being sky-high in antioxidants, they have been known to help treat inflammatory gut disease.
Try adding foods such as berries, 70%+ dark chocolate, hazelnuts and pecans, green tea and artichokes into your diet routinely.
Bone broth might not be for everyone, but if you are a fan, it can be a great addition to add into a gut-healthy diet. This is thanks to the collagen found in bone broth which can help to reduce inflammation and support a healthy gut lining. Oh, and it also happens to be high in protein and minerals which can support our digestive health. Try making your own or consider buying brands such as Daylesford or Borough Broth Co.
Bitter foods such as rocket, kale, dandelion greens and chicory can be great to add to your diet to help stimulate stomach acid and digestive enzyme production. Try having a rocket salad before a large meal to help digestion.
We know that eating high volumes of sugar isn’t great, but it has been shown that the consumption of artificial sweeteners such as aspartame may increase the number of non-beneficial bacterial strains that are linked to metabolic disease. (1)
Consuming natural sugars may be less harmful to the gut than consuming refined sugars, as they contain more micronutrients. One study discovered that maple syrup contains inulin, a type of fibre that may act as a prebiotic for the human gut microbiome. (2) However, it is important to have everything in moderation, especially when it comes to sugar consumption.
Opt for sources of sugar that are a source of fibre such as dates or inulin.
Whole Grains are richer in fibre than white, processed carbs. This fibre in whole grains can support healthy digestion by keeping your bowel movements regular. The fibre in whole grain sources such as oats, quinoa, buckwheat and brown rice help to bulk out your stool, reducing the risk of constipation.
Some forms of fibre in wholegrains will also act as prebiotics, meaning they may help to feed your beneficial gut bacteria, which is fundamental for good digestive health.
Movement is not just good for your muscles and cardiovascular health, but it is also good for your gut!
Many yoga movements help to massage your digestive tract and can help get bowels moving and gas…. Flowing. It may take some trial and error to get used to the movements, but they can benefit your body and your mind. As the gut and mind are so connected, learning to fully switch off and fully relax can do wonders for your gut health.
GOOD QUALITY SLEEP
Ensuring we get enough good quality sleep can improve our mood, cognition and gut health.
One study indicated that irregular and disturbed sleep may have a negative effect on our gut flora, which may increase our risk of developing inflammatory conditions. (3)
Aiming to include 7-9 hours of good quality sleep into your routine will ensure those gut microbes get some downtime, too- try to wind down before sleeping to get you in the mood, turning off technology, indulging in a bath and avoiding alcohol and caffeine 3-4 hours before bed.
Overall, too many of us focus on what we need to remove and restrict when it comes to the gut, but our microbes love diversity and a range of different foods. So instead of focusing on what to cut out in 2022, focus on what gut happy foods we can bring into our everyday routine.