Gut health is a major health trend right now – and that’s a good thing. Thanks to years of extensive research, we’ve now discovered if the gut isn’t healthy, the whole body isn’t healthy. And a lot of that health comes from eating foods for gut health!
One of the most important things we now know is that a diverse microbiota is a happy one. And that means eating a wide array of foods that can help improve the health of your gut!
The Important of Gut Health
Did you know that estimates suggest as much as 70-80% of your immune system lives in your gut? It’s true. So, doesn’t it make sense that to keep your immune system healthy (and thus your whole body), you want to keep the gut healthy? We think so.
But don’t just take our word for it! Countless studies have demonstrated links between gut health and the immune system, mood, mental health, autoimmune diseases, endocrine disorders, skin conditions, and cancer.
When the gut is healthy and balanced, that means there are plenty of ‘friendly’ (beneficial) bacteria hanging around, fighting off the ‘bad’ (harmful) bacteria. These friendly bacteria help ward off viruses and bacteria.
And unfortunately there are tons of different things in our environment that can cause an imbalance in the gut, including:
- not enough/poor sleep
- processed and high-sugar foods
Keeping the gut healthy means encouraging the growth of friendly bacteria, and thankfully there are plenty of foods that do just that.
Foods for Gut Health
Yogurt is an excellent source of probiotics – that friendly bacteria we mentioned earlier. You can even find some (often Greek yogurt) that has added probiotics like Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus casei to make it even better. Have some in the morning with a handful of antioxidant-rich berries!
In the same realm as yogurt, kefir is a probiotic yogurt drink made by fermenting milk, and it’s full of good bacteria. You can add kefir to your diet in your smoothies, added to your morning yogurt, or is sauces or salad dressings.
3. Fermented foods
- Sauerkraut – This is finely chopped cabbage that has been fermented. This great source of probiotics, fibre and vitamins. Look for sauerkraut that’s not pickled in vinegar, as that doesn’t have the same benefits.
- Kimchi – Korean fermented vegetables are also packed with probiotic bacteria, as well as vitamins and fibre.
Kombucha is a fermented tea drink made using a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast). It has a sharp taste and can quite refreshing.
Almonds are another food that have good probiotic properties. They’re high in fibre, and full of fatty acids and polyphenols that are good for the gut. Add them to salad, stir-fry, or just grab a handful as a healthy afternoon snack.
6. Sourdough Bread
Rather than just regular bread, reach for some sourdough. Sourdough bread is made by fermenting the dough, and it’s more digestible than regular bread. Whether you buy it or make it yourself, it’s much healthier for the gut.
A staple in Japan, miso is made from fermented soya beans, plus barley or rice, and it contains a range of helpful bacteria and digestive enzymes.
To keep the friendly bacteria, probiotics, thriving, you need to feed it a type of dietary fiber called prebiotics. Apples are a good source of these probiotics. Pectin accounts for approximately 50% of an apple’s total fiber content, and that pectin has prebiotic benefits. It increases butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid that feeds the beneficial gut bacteria and decreases the population of harmful bacteria. Apples are also a decent source of antioxidants!
Garlic is another source of probiotics, as well as having antibacterial and antifungal properties, which can help keep “bad” gut bacteria under control.
Not only are bananas a good source of potassium, they’re also full of fibre that good bacteria enjoy. They also contain healthy minerals. Add one to your morning smoothy with your yogurt and kefir.
11. Brussels sprouts
These small but mighty veggies may be common around the holidays, but your gut will thank you for eating them year-round. Brussels sprouts contain prebiotics, as well as sulphur compounds that can help combat unhealthy bacteria like H pylori, the bacteria that causes ulcers!
Do you ever wonder why you reach for general when your stomach is upset? It’s because ginger can help in the production of stomach acid and stimulate the digestive system to keep food moving through the gut. Even better than general though is fresh ginger, so brew up some ginger tea or add some chopped, fresh ginger to smoothies or stir-fries.