A Beginner's Guide to a Healthy Gut
The gut: not exactly the most glamorous subject but by now you’ve heard how critical your insides are to a healthy and happy body and mind (1). In fact, researchers have found your gut is not only linked to your physical health, but your mood (2), motivation and get-up-and-go (yes, you can blame your tum for hitting snooze on that 6am run).
To a beginner, the gut’s mega role might seem overwhelming, but just think of the untapped benefits once you get yours in good working order. And getting to destination happy gut is actually quite simple, with this first-timers guide.
STOCK UP ON PRE AND PROBIOTICS
Like planet Earth, when it comes to your inner ecology, diversity equals resilience. In other words, the more types of friendly gut bacteria you have, the better research (3) seems to show (4,) Enter: pre and probiotics. Erm, sure, but what’s the difference? Basically, a food that is prebiotic (5) contains nutrients, mostly certain types of fermentable fibres, that gut bacteria feed on. Meanwhile, probiotic (6)-rich foods contain bacteria that are known to have health benefits and help the resident bugs do their job better. Like Barack and Michelle, they’re a powerful combination. Some foods contain good gut bacteria but are not called probiotic, as the bacteria they contain are not in large enough numbers and/or contain microorganisms that we don’t yet have research to support a known beneficial health effect. These are still worthwhile including in your diet as we also know that during the fermentation process important metabolites (7) are produced that are a benefit in themselves to our health.
There are some foods that undergo fermentation in their production that no longer contain live microorganisms when we eat them. The fermentation process can help increase the vitamins and bioactive compounds available to us in these foods and makes some components easier to digest such as in the making of sour dough bread or the making of sauerkraut that sometimes undergoes pasteurisation to make it shelf stable but kills off the live bacteria.
Check out the shopping list of potent prebiotics, probiotics and foods with good bacteria below so you can stock up on your next supermarket dash.
FOODS WITH PREBIOTIC FIBRE
- Papaya, bananas, nectarines, watermelon, apples
- Almonds, cashews, pistachios
- Cereal grains (whole wheat, barley, rye, oats)
- Garlic, onions, leek
FOODS WITH GUT FRIENDLY BACTERIA
- Fermented vegetables (kimchi, sauerkraut (unpasteurised), pickles, olives)
- Fermented soybeans (miso, tempeh)
- Cultured dairy products (buttermilk, yoghurt, cheese)
- Cultured non-dairy products (organic soy or coconut yoghurt)
- Fermented grains and beans (chickpea, miso)
- Fermented drinks (kefir, Filmjolk, kombucha)
- Fermented condiments (raw apple cider vinegar).