20 Nov 5 foods for a great gut health diet
Your gut is an incredibly important part of your body, but most people don’t look after it well. It is home to billions of tiny microbes which contribute to your immune and digestive system, and what you eat can affect those vital little helpers.
Several different foods can help to improve the health of your gut, which is basically the long tube that starts in your throat and ends at your bottom.
You need to choose the right foods to keep it healthy and feel better, exercise better and live a more full life.
Get plant-based foods into your gut health diet
The first and most important food for your gut is a range of food know as pre-biotics. This is a fancy phrase for the parts of mostly plant-based food which you can’t digest but will fertilise your gut bacteria. Pre-biotics are different from probiotics, which contain actual bacteria.
Jerusalem artichoke has been found to boost microbial activity in the large intestine, and its fibre is mostly made of inulin, which isn’t digested by your gut and instead feeds those helpful microbes.
Garlic, onions, asparagus and leeks are also good pre-biotics with high levels of inulin. Asparagus has even been found to help prevent some types of cancer.
Barley and oats are often used in cereals and both are rich in a pre-biotic called beta-glucan.
Try adding extra virgin olive oil as part of your gut health diet
If you don’t already use it, you should try to adopt as much as you can of the so-called Mediterranean diet, which features a big role for extra virgin olive oil.
Research has found that this type of oil can really help your gut health. One study looked at the effect of a moderate intake of extra virgin olive oil. It found that the subjects had increased levels of bifidobacteria, a useful type of bacteria which lives in the colon.
You can easily integrate extra virgin olive oil into your diet, because just about all pasta dishes include it, and you can add it to salads as part of a healthy dressing. You can also use it instead of butter when mashing potatoes or cooking eggs.
Sourdough bread can help your digestion
Probiotics are foods containing live bacteria known to help your gut health. Research is not totally clear about whether that bacteria survives your digestive process to reach the places it needs to go, but evidence does suggest that eating these foods as part of a balanced diet can help.
Sourdough bread is a particularly interesting example, because it is made from a starter compound made of wild yeasts and bacteria, and these feed on the sugar in the dough during the proving process.
This is the pro-biotic element, but it is believed most of these bacteria die in the heat of baking. However, the unique sourdough process can make the bread easier to digest, especially for people with digestive problems.
Nuts are packed with fibre
Nuts are generally a good part of any diet, but their fibre content makes them perfect for a gut health diet. A study in the US found that mice with a bowel disease called ulcerative colitis healed faster when eating a diet rich in walnuts.
Nuts bring other advantages as well, with some rich in calcium, others in omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, zinc, potassium or vitamin C.
Naturally fermented foods can help your gut health diet
Fermented foods are preserved using a process that increases the food’s shelf life and nutritional value. People living in countries where fermented food feature prominently in the diet are more likely to have good gut health and less likely to experience bowel disease.
When choosing fermented foods, look for the words “naturally fermented” on the label. Another tip is to watch for small bubbles in the liquid when you look inside, as this indicates there are live organisms at work.
Fermented foods include sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, kombucha and many pickles.
When it comes to your gut health diet, aim for a balanced diet with plenty of fibre from plant-based foods. Make sure you’re getting lots of different types of fruit and vegetables, and don’t be shy about adding a dash of extra virgin olive oil on your salad.
You should be sceptical about some of the promises about pro-biotics delivering “good” bacteria to your gut, but research shows good quality pro-biotics do have health advantages.
If in doubt, talk to your personal trainer, because they can advise on what foods to eat or avoid. Look after your gut and it will look after you.