Glorious Gut — The Ultimate Guide to the Best Foods
In the intricate landscape of our body's well-being, there exists a hidden kingdom of profound importance: our gut health. Often overlooked, the gut plays a pivotal role in our overall physical and even mental wellness. It's a complex ecosystem, home to trillions of microorganisms, each with a vital role in digestion, immune function, and more. As we embark on a journey to understand and nurture our gut health, one thing becomes clear: the food we consume holds the power to either fortify or disrupt this delicate balance. So read on to learn the best foods for gut health, those that serve as nurturing allies to our microbiome.
Fibre is a carbohydrate present in plant-based meals that can be soluble or insoluble. Soluble fibre absorbs water and creates a gel, which is digested by gut flora. Meanwhile, insoluble fibre goes through your digestive tract mostly intact, adding bulk to your stool. This causes food to travel more quickly through the GI system, promoting regular bowel motions. Both forms of fibre contribute to gut health by aiding digestion and reducing constipation. According to a review of studies published in The Lancet, eating high-fibre foods may also help protect you against acquiring excess weight and developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and several types of cancer.
Wonderful sources of fibre include:
- Beans, dried peas and lentils
- Bran (oat and wheat)
- Dried fruits, such as prunes and raisins
- Whole-grain foods, such as whole-grain bread, whole-grain cereal, and whole-grain pasta
- Barley, quinoa, bulgur, and brown rice are examples of whole grains.
- Fresh fruits, particularly apples with skin, pears with skin, oranges, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries.
- Vegetables, particularly artichokes, broccoli, green peas, winter squash, and skinned white potatoes and sweet potatoes
Consuming probiotic-rich foods like kimchi, kombucha, and kefir can offer a multitude of benefits for gut health. These fermented delicacies are packed with live beneficial bacteria that help maintain a balanced microbiome in the digestive system. Kimchi, a traditional Korean dish made from fermented vegetables, aids in digestion and may reduce the risk of inflammation in the gut. Kombucha, a fermented tea, provides a refreshing source of probiotics that can enhance gut flora diversity and support immune function. Kefir, a fermented dairy product, is a potent probiotic powerhouse that promotes digestion, alleviates digestive discomfort, and contributes to a healthier gut lining. Lactobacillus (abbreviated as "L." on food labels) and Bifidobacterium (abbreviated as "B." on food labels) are two common bacteria types found in probiotic foods. Probiotic foods are created by introducing bacteria to food and/or allowing fermentation to occur.
Probiotic foods include the following:
- Fermented soy foods, such as tempeh, miso and natto
- Kefir (fermented milk)
- Kimchi (fermented vegetables)
- Kombucha (a fermented tea drink)
- Sauerkraut (fermented cabbage)
- Yogurt, both dairy and non-dairy
Check the labels of probiotic foods for live, active cultures, which indicate that the bacteria in the foods are still alive. When looking for probiotic sauerkraut, for example, look for refrigerated brands with live organisms. Shelf-stable, pasteurised pickles in a can or jar is unlikely to contain active bacteria. Living microorganisms are advantageous because they contribute to the community of living microbes that already exists in your gut. Probiotics can also be obtained as food supplements. Make sure to do your homework on the ingredients used and whether they are all natural.
Prebiotic Foods Like Asparagus, Bananas and Garlic
Eating prebiotic foods like asparagus, bananas, and garlic can significantly benefit gut health. These foods are rich sources of dietary fibre and contain specific compounds that serve as nourishment for the beneficial bacteria residing in our digestive system. Asparagus, for example, provides inulin, a potent prebiotic fibre that promotes the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, aiding in digestion and overall gut balance. Bananas are packed with resistant starch, another prebiotic, which helps regulate bowel movements and supports a healthy gut environment. Garlic, renowned for its health benefits, contains fructooligosaccharides (FOS), contributing to the proliferation of good gut bacteria. It is not enough to consume a variety of probiotic-rich foods; you must also consume items that aid in the survival of these health-promoting microbes. That is where prebiotics, a form of soluble fibre, come in. Consider them nutrient-dense food for your healthy gut microbes; eating prebiotic foods successfully feeds the good bacteria that keeps the gut flora in balance. Prebiotic meals contain soluble dietary fibre molecules such as fructooligosaccharides, inulin, and galactooligosaccharides. It works as fuel for certain bacteria in the stomach, thereby promoting the growth of additional healthy bacteria. Enter the Orifera Probio — a multi-blend product comprising 5 probiotics and 4 prebiotics, thus fuelling your gut with both the vital properties it needs.
Good prebiotic foods include:
- Jerusalem artichokes
Synbiotic Foods Like Yogurt Paired With Blueberries
Synbiotic foods are a fascinating category of nutritional products that combine the benefits of both prebiotics and probiotics to promote and maintain a healthy gut. Synbiotic foods leverage this synergistic relationship by incorporating prebiotic ingredients, such as fibres and resistant starches, to nourish the probiotic bacteria within the gut. This combination enhances the survival and growth of these beneficial microorganisms, ultimately leading to improved digestive health.
Synbiotic foods include the following:
- A kefir or yoghurt-based banana smoothie
- Stir-fry tempeh, asparagus, garlic and leeks
- Yoghurt with blueberries
Add high-fibre items like whole grains, nuts, seeds, veggies, fruits, or legumes to make these foods even better for your gut.
Inflammation happens when your body produces white blood cells and other chemicals to defend itself against infection. Anti-inflammatory food, rich in nutrients and natural compounds help reduce inflammation in the digestive system, which is often at the root of various gastrointestinal issues. Incorporating a diet abundant in anti-inflammatory foods, such as leafy greens, berries, fatty fish like salmon, turmeric, and ginger, can alleviate symptoms of conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease and promote a balanced gut microbiome. Anti-inflammatory foods provide ingredients that help reduce inflammation, such as vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids. These have a role in the body's natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory processes, which may benefit gut health.
Following are some examples of anti-inflammatory foods:
- Salmon, sardines, and anchovies are examples of fatty fish.
- Flax seeds
- Fruits like berries and grapes
- Vegetables such as broccoli, peppers and tomatoes
A Varied Diet Improves Gut Health Naturally
Including a variety of foods in your daily diet is a wonderful strategy to improve your gut microbiota and overall health. An abundance of nutrients from a variety of foods is essential for flourishing your gut flora. The more diverse the diet as a whole, the greater the gut's access to a variety of essential nutrients. Also, remember to drink lots of water throughout the day. Water not only allows fibre to do its function in your stomach effectively, but it also keeps your digestive system and the rest of your body running like a well-oiled machine. Adequate fluid intake is critical for the health of all organ systems, including the gut.