The Best Foods to Eat to Improve Your Gut Health


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The Best Foods to Eat to Improve Your Gut Health
The Best Foods to Eat to Improve Your Gut Health

Optimal Choices for Enhancing Gut Health Through Nutrition

With advancements in scientific research, we are beginning to learn more about our bodies. Much research has gone into ways to improve our gut health. The discoveries about gut health and its relation to overall well-being have been revolutionary.

The gut or gastrointestinal tract functions primarily for the digestion and absorption of the food we eat. The long tubular system extends from the mouth to the rear. Within the gut, billions of good bacteria exist, which are collectively known as the gut microflora or microbiome. The microbiome plays a vital role in maintaining good gut health.

The bacteria in this microbiome greatly assist with the digestion of our foods. Aside from aiding digestion, gut bacteria also help keep us healthy by supporting the immune system. They help prevent the proliferation of harmful bacteria. Gut bacteria are also vital in producing vitamins useful in immunity and aiding various metabolic processes.

Once the balance in the microbiome has been altered, your gut health can become compromised, and, by extension, your overall health may be affected. Different factors can impact the kind of bacteria that will be present in your gut. The most important factor will be food. Most people can naturally improve gut health by including certain foods in their diet. In this article, we will focus on the best foods considered as gut-friendly foods.

Probiotic Foods

While pushing your cart through the supermarket, you might have come across some foods with labels saying they contain probiotics.  Probiotic foods are some of the top superfoods for your gut. They contain living cultures of microbes akin to the microorganisms in your gut. When you eat foods containing probiotics, you will improve your gut health. Probiotics enhance the population of beneficial bacteria in both number and variety.

Probiotic foods are prepared by introducing microorganisms into the food. Most times, the preparation of these foods involves the process of fermentation, but only in some cases. Two common bacterial genera are used in probiotic foods – Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus. When shopping for probiotic foods, you may see labels with the “B” or “L” abbreviations, respectively, indicating their presence.

When going for probiotic foods, check the labels to ensure they contain live and active microbial cultures. This means that the bacteria contained in the foods are still alive. Living microbes are beneficial because they join the colony of living microbes already in your gut.

Probiotic Foods
Probiotic Foods

Also, the probiotic foods in the refrigerated section are more likely to contain living bacteria than those on the shelf. It is also important to store your food as you find at the supermarket. This way, the microbes will stay alive till you are ready to consume the food.

Here are examples of gut-friendly foods in the probiotic class:

  • Dairy and non-dairy forms of yogurt
  • Fermented soy foods like miso and tempeh
  • Kombucha (a fermented tea drink)
  • Kefir (fermented milk)
  • Sauerkraut (fermented cabbage)
  • Kimchi (fermented vegetables)

Taking any foods adds to your gut bacteria and improves your health.

Prebiotic Foods

Just like probiotics, prebiotics are also valuable superfoods for your gut. The spellings are almost similar, so try to keep them distinct. Prebiotic foods also benefit your gut microbiome but do not provide the same functions as probiotics.

While probiotic foods directly add to the bacterial population by introducing new bacteria to the gut, prebiotics enhance the proliferation of the bacteria already in the gut. Prebiotic foods spark the growth and activity of the beneficial bacteria in the gut. They keep the gut bacteria alive so they can perform their duties.

Prebiotics are foods that are non-digestible by human cells. They are commonly composed of complex carbohydrates or fiber. Prebiotic foods contain compounds like inulin, Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), and GALACTO-OLIGOSACCHARIDES (GOS). Even though human cells can’t digest probiotics, these nutrient-dense prebiotics can be broken down by some species of bacteria within the gut. The bacteria use them as energy sources to carry out their biochemical activities.

Eat More Prebiotic Foods for a Happier, Healthier
Eat More Prebiotic Foods for a Happier, Healthier

When you consume prebiotic foods, you will feed the beneficial bacteria responsible for keeping your gut balanced. Multiple studies have indicated that prebiotics enhance the proliferation of beneficial bacteria such as Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus.

Some of the good prebiotic foods you can take to improve gut health include:

  • Asparagus
  • Artichokes
  • Garlic
  • Bananas
  • Oats
  • Soybeans
  • Onions
  • Leeks
  • Chicory
  • Honey
  • Lentils

Anti Inflammatory Foods

Inflammation is a normal and natural process. When it occurs, your body mobilizes white blood cells to a part of your body to protect against infection. When a threat exists, the immune system of the body becomes activated. Once this happens, cells known as cytokines are sent out, stimulating the arrival of white blood cells. The white blood cells isolate and destroy threats, promoting healing and repair.

This process benefits you and your body when you have an infection. In some individuals, the immune system can become overactive, and the inflammatory process can still occur when no infection exists. The process can destroy the beneficial gut bacteria that work to maintain our gut health. This inflammatory overdrive can contribute to or exacerbate gastrointestinal conditions such as Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and ulcerative colitis.

Consumption of pro-inflammatory foods can also contribute to unwanted inflammatory processes occurring in the body. Simple and refined sugars are some of the major dietary factors contributing to increased inflammation in the body. Unhealthy fats such as trans fats are also known contributors.

Anti-inflammatory foods must be included in our diets to improve gut health. These foods comprise nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids, which help to roll back the inflammatory processes. When unnecessary inflammatory processes have been put in check, gut bacteria are less at risk and can play their role in keeping our bodies healthy.

Here is a list of some helpful superfoods for your gut that have anti-inflammatory properties:

  • Fatty fish, such as sardines, anchovies, salmon, tuna, and herring.
  • Walnuts
  • Seeds, such as Flax seeds, chia seeds, and hemp hearts and their oils
  • Anti Inflammatory oils include extra-virgin olive, avocado, and walnut oil.
  • Fruits, such as berries, tomatoes, and grapes.
  • Vegetables, such as broccoli and peppers.
  • Spices such as Turmeric and garlic

Synbiotic Foods

You will already be familiar with probiotic and prebiotic foods and how they help improve gut health. A blend of these two food classes will produce great superfoods for your gut. Synbiotic foods kill two proverbial birds with one stone for improving gut health. They supply the body with prebiotics and probiotics to keep the gut microbiome fully functional. They add to the population of gut bacteria and enhance their metabolic activities by providing the fuel they need.

The consumption of synbiotic foods, according to studies, is beneficial when treating certain gut-related conditions. Symptoms of diarrhea, ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, and irritable bowel syndrome are reduced when there is a steady consumption of both prebiotic and probiotic foods.

Some synbiotic food ideas include:

  • Yogurt with blueberries
  • A stir fry made with tempeh and kimchi
  • A banana smoothie made with Kefir or yogurt
  • A veggie burger topped with sauerkraut and onion
  • A stir fry made with asparagus and kimchi

Adding high-fiber ingredients like whole grains will make these even more gut-friendly foods.

Whole Grains

Whole grains are made up of non-digestible carbohydrates that do well to promote the growth of good bacteria in the gut. Carbohydrates such as beta-glucans are not absorbed in the small intestine. They instead make their way to the large intestine, where they contribute to the growth and nourishment of the microbiome.

According to studies, whole grains can reduce inflammation in the gut, positively impacting the gut microbiome. Inflammation in the gut will lead to the destruction of some beneficial bacteria and cause imbalance. Most importantly, whole grains enhance the growth of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus in the gut.

Examples of gut-friendly whole grains:

  • Oats
  • Wheat
  • Barley
  • Brown rice
  • Rye
  • Quinoa

While whole grains may be gut-friendly, it is essential to note that some grains, like wheat, barley, and rye, contain gluten. These gluten-containing grains may do more harm than good in individuals sensitive to gluten or who have Celiac disease.

Conclusion

Your gut health is heavily dependent on the bacterial microbiome of your gut. The best way to care for your gut health is to include the gut-friendly foods we discussed in your diet.


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