Good gut health is the latest buzzword to sweet the health industry, but what does good gut health mean? We now understand that the balance of good and bad bacteria in our digestive tract can influence more our bathroom habits. In fact, our immune system, our exercise tolerance, our risk of chronic diseases, and even our body weight can be linked back to the health of our gut.
Basically, the more good bacteria we have, the healthier the gut is, and the better we will feel! Ready to jump on the gut health bandwagon with us? It’s easy – just include a balance of ‘probiotic’ and ‘prebiotic’ foods in your weekly diet. We’ve listed five examples of each, to help get you started!
Probiotics are live good bacteria, and are naturally occurring in fermented foods. During fermentation, natural sugars are converted into lactic acid, facilitating the growth of lactobacilli and other probiotics. People who have high levels of lactobacilli usually have fewer Enterobacteriaceae, a bacteria associated with inflammation and a number of chronic diseases.
These five foods are good sources of probiotics.
A fermented milk drink, and one of the richest ‘natural’ sources of ‘good bacteria’. Kefir often includes over 30 probiotic varieties! You can buy kefir in supermarkets these days, as well as health food stores.
The ‘original’ probiotic food, and probably the most accessible. Although it’s fallen into the shadow of kefir – it’s still an excellent source of “ABC” probiotics Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus casei. All yoghurts have probiotics, but opt for unsweetened varieties.
Like kefir, kombucha (i.e. fermented tea) has risen from obscurity and can now be found in many cafes and health food stores. Watch out for the added sugars in some brands. We like Remedy Kombucha, which has less than 10g of added sugar per bottle for most flavours.
Pickled cabbage, you can usually find it at your local deli, or it’s quite easy to make on your own. It makes a beautiful addition to sandwiches (think Reuben) and salads – or enjoy it as a side dish with grilled protein and veg.
Made from fermented soybeans, miso is extremely versatile! Use as a marinade, dressing, or soup base.
Prebiotics are dietary fibres that act as ‘food sources’ for good bacteria, promoting their growth and survival in the gut. Higher consumption of prebiotic foods has been linked to reduced growth of some disease-causing gut bacteria. It has also been linked to overall health improvement, including reduced cholesterol and stable blood sugar.
A word of caution, some foods rich in prebiotics are also sources of dietary FODMAPs. If you have IBS, some of these foods may aggravate, rather than relieve, your digestive symptoms. These five foods are good sources of prebiotic fibres.
Also known as the ‘earth apple’, this vegetable has been proven to strengthen your immune system as well as your gut health. Use them as you would any other root vegetable – roast them, mash them, or make a soup out of them!
This spring vegetable is an excellent source of inulin – a prebiotic fibre, and antioxidants. Enjoy them cooked, or raw and thinly sliced in salads
The list of health benefits for this tasty vegetable is a long one. Like asparagus, garlic a good source of inulin, and has been shown to increase the growth of bifidobacteria. Also known to have antimicrobial and antioxidant properties
A root vegetable with an extremely high prebiotic fibre content, native to Asia. It has been shown to improve gut health, relieve constipation, lower cholesterol and boost immunity. Konjac root is usually used for making ‘low carb’ noodles – an alternative to rice noodles. Some common brands available at the supermarket include Slendier, and Chang’s ‘low carb’.
We thought we’d include oats as a low FODMAP option for those who suffer from IBS! Beta-glucans in oats also assist with lowering cholesterol.