6 superfoods your gut will love
Poor gut health can have a huge impact on both your physical and emotional health. An unhealthy gut can put your whole body out of balance, which can lead to a number of health issues including anxiety, depression, lowered immune function, weight gain, digestive issues and an increased risk of autoimmune diseases.
The gut, or gastrointestinal system, is made up of vital digestive organs that are responsible for many essential tasks. The gut breaks down food and absorbs nutrients to provide energy, and to build, repair and nourish the body. It plays the important role of removing waste and toxins and it’s the body’s first line of defence against harmful bacteria and pathogens. A large percentage of our neurotransmitters and immune cells are also produced in the gut.
Here are six superfoods your gut will love to add into your daily diet.
Having whole oats for breakfast is a great way to add more resistant starch into your diet. This important type of dietary fibre moves through the small intestine undigested, and instead it’s fermented in the large intestine by your gut microbiota. The by-product of this fermentation process is the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFA), called postbiotics. These postbiotics play the very important role of providing fuel for your beneficial gut microbiota, along with reducing inflammation and ensuring the integrity of the gut lining.
Resistant starch is considered a prebiotic food as it encourages your beneficial gut microbiota to grow and flourish in the digestive tract. For optimal gut health you should be aiming to include a variety of fibre-rich sources in your daily diet, including resistant starch found in whole oats.
Oats are extremely versatile and can be enjoyed with your favourite fruits, nuts and seeds in porridge, muesli, oat cookies, fruit crumbles, or as granola to top yoghurt and smoothie bowls. You can also use oat flour to add an extra fibre boost to cakes, pancakes and muffins.
Including fermented foods in your daily diet is an important way to boost your gut health and digestion. Kefir is a delicious fermented milk drink similar to a drinking yoghurt, with a tart taste and a slight effervescence. This traditional Russian drink has outstanding health benefits. What makes kefir special is its broad range of beneficial bacteria. Fermented foods like kefir are considered probiotic foods as they contain live bacteria that help increase beneficial microbiota in the gut. It’s important that we have a good balance of these beneficial gut microbiota for a strong-functioning immune system and for the healthy production of our “feel good” neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine. When your gut microbiota is out of balance, certain harmful bacteria can activate immune cells to produce inflammation that can damage the intestinal lining.
You can enjoy kefir on its own or added to smoothies, salad dressings or breakfast cereals. There are two different types of kefir — milk kefir and water kefir, which is dairy-free. You can also make water kefir using coconut water.
Bone broths made from chicken, beef, lamb or fish bones contain collagen that helps to soothe, nourish and repair the gut lining. Collagen supports gut health as it contains high levels of the amino acids glutamine, glycine and proline, which are important for maintaining the integrity of the gut mucosa.
Bone broths are easy to digest and are a popular healing food for anyone with leaky gut or an inflammatory gut condition. You can easily make bone broths at home or buy them from your local grocer or health food store. Bone broth is a wonderful way to give your next soup, stew or casserole a nourishing boost. Bone broth can also be consumed as a nourishing warm drink.
Garlic has been used for centuries as a natural medicine to support immune health and to fight off infections. Garlic contains an active compound called allicin, which gives garlic its super-immune stimulating powers.
Garlic has antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties that make it beneficial for fighting a variety of infections. Garlic acts like a natural antibiotic, killing off disease-causing bacteria while also acting as a prebiotic and promoting the growth of beneficial microbiota.
Garlic has also been shown in studies to kill off Helicobacter pylori (H.pylori). This type of bacteria can live in the stomach lining and can cause stomach inflammation and ulcers.
The way you prepare and cook garlic will affect its health benefits. Allicin is activated when you cut or crush garlic. Heat destroys some of garlic’s allicin content. Cooking can also destroy some of its prebiotic benefits. Eating garlic raw when you can is ideal, added to salad dressings, dips, pesto and bruschetta. Garlic is very versatile and can be used in so many dishes, including pasta sauces, lentil dahls, curries, stir-fries, soups and homemade garlic bread.
Your beneficial gut microbiota need certain foods to ensure they survive and thrive in the digestive tract. Prebiotics are foods that feed your beneficial gut bacteria to help them grow and survive. Prebiotics are found in fibre-rich foods like green bananas.
Including enough fibre in the diet is of utmost importance for maintaining a healthy gut. The fibre found in green bananas is broken down and fermented by gut bacteria to produce vital SCFA. These SCFA are very important for gut health as they are the main energy source for intestinal cells. They have an anti-inflammatory effect and influence blood flow to the gut wall and the secretion of gut hormones.
The best way to eat green bananas is either raw and thinly sliced, or added to smoothies. You can also use green banana flour in your smoothies. Heating green bananas will destroy some of the resistant starch so they are best eaten raw.
Ginger is widely known for its ability to relieve nausea associated with motion and morning sickness, however this impressive herb possesses many other health benefits.
Ginger has a powerful anti-inflammatory action, making it beneficial for reducing inflammation in the body, including soothing inflammatory bowel conditions and leaky gut. Ginger is a “carminative” herb that herbalists commonly prescribe to ease excess flatulence and bloating, and intestinal cramping. It is useful for improving poor digestion as it stimulates digestive acids and juices to improve the digestion of foods and increases nutrient absorption and utilisation.
Ginger tea is a delicious way to consume ginger. Try adding a few fresh slices of ginger to boiling water with some lemon and a little honey. Add freshly grated or ground ginger to curries, veggie juices, raw desserts, bliss balls, smoothies, baked goods, porridges, soups and salad dressings. A turmeric and ginger latte made with plant-based milk is a fabulous anti-inflammatory drink to heal and soothe the gut.