5 foods for gut health
OUR digestive systems are the unsung workaholics of our bodies, toiling around the clock to break down and absorb nutrients from the food and fluids we consume.
Within this ongoing cycle, our large intestine – often referred to as our gut – is the office hero.
Though perhaps we should say office heroes, because it is actually the populations of tiny organisms in our gut that keep us healthy.
These micro-organisms are also known as the microbiota, gut flora or gut bacteria. Strange as it may seem, your gut is home to a lot of them – billions, in fact.
There many different types of gut bacteria, with most of us having more than 1000 different species.
Even though we can’t see them with the naked eye, we cannot underestimate the important role gut bacteria play in not only our digestive health but our immune system and mental health.
Part of their duties also involve the absorption of essential nutrients, protecting us from harmful bacteria and even influencing inflammation.
We spoke to Jean Hailes naturopath Sandra Villella about how to support the digestive system through eating everyday foods.
Her five top foods to nourish gut bacteria are:
The nutrients in brown rice encourage the growth and activity of healthy gut bacteria. Red and black rice are also good options.
Oats contain a unique type of fibre that nourishes and restores healthy gut bacteria. This makes oats a great food to eat every day and they are especially suited to breakfast – porridges, muesli or a smoothie with oats.
These tiny brown, tan or golden-coloured seeds are high in fibre and can help to create an environment within the gut in which the healthy bacteria want to grow and live. To ensure freshness and get the most benefit from this food, grind linseeds in a coffee or spice grinder and store the ground seeds for up to two weeks in an airtight container in the fridge. Simply sprinkle a tablespoon or two of ground seeds over your porridge in the morning.
Essentially, prebiotics are fuel for healthy gut bacteria, so it’s important to eat enough prebiotics to keep the populations alive and healthy. Prebiotics occur naturally in a number of everyday foods, such as garlic, onions, leeks, spring onions, asparagus, artichokes, beetroot, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, watercress, kale and legumes including chickpeas, lentils and red kidney beans.
Another way to help keep your populations of good bacteria healthy is by eating them.
Yoghurts often contain healthy gut bacteria, but it’s important to check the labels. Good products will specify the type and quantity of good bacteria. Yoghurt that contains around one billion good bacteria per serve is recommended.
Kefir is similar to yoghurt but contains even greater amounts of healthy bacteria. Many people enjoy it as part of their breakfast – added to smoothies or with fruit.
Published with the permission of Jean Hailes for Women’s Health, 1800 532 642, jeanhailes.org.au