The gut refers to the gastrointestinal tract or digestive system. “Gut health” is the function and balance of what goes into the digestive system. Our gut or digestive system is the home to a vast universe called the microbiome. The microbiome is a collection of trillions of microbes which include bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Studies show that the microbiome influences our health, including the immune system, mood, body weight, inflammation, food allergies, and certain autoimmune diseases. In a healthy microbiome or a healthy gut, the beneficial microbes keep the bad ones from taking over and causing problems. Digestive system problems are common and cause a variety of symptoms, from gas and bloating to heartburn and constipation. Eating for your gut is important to promote not only digestive health but overall wellness.
The good news is we may be able to improve gut health by eating foods that benefit good microorganisms and support our immune system.
Specific recommendations to promote gut health include:
- Avoid foods that contribute to an unhealthy microbiome, such as added sugars, processed foods, alcohol, too much animal protein, and saturated fat.
- Try to eat a diet that is rich in pre and probiotics for positive impacts on the microbiome.
- Prebiotics are found in high-fiber foods and are basically food for our gut microbes. Vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes like peas and beans are among the best sources of naturally occurring prebiotic fiber. Ingredients in some packaged foods, like inulin and oligosaccharides, are also classified as prebiotics.
- Probiotic bacteria are found in fermented dairy products like yogurt and kefir as well as foods like kimchi and sauerkraut. They are also found in dietary supplements. Probiotics have been shown to maintain or improve the “good” bacteria in the body.
- Include whole, minimally processed foods. Minimally processed foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and fatty fish are lower in sugar than processed foods and can be helpful in reducing inflammation in the gut and throughout the body.
- This Mediterranean Chopped Salad hits all the right buttons with its crispy roasted chickpeas, tangy feta cheese, fresh vegetables, and bold spice blend.
- Add Fermented Foods into the diet. Foods like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, kombucha, tempeh, and sauerkraut are fermented and naturally rich in probiotics.
- Be sure to use vanilla yogurt with “live and active cultures” when making this Mixed Berry Smoothie.
- Eat a wide variety of foods from all food groups for an assortment of nutrients. This helps ensure a diverse population of bacteria which is good for the gut.
- Try this colorful Squash and Tomato Salad along with your main course for a perfect summer side that is rich in nutrients.
- Choose high-fiber foods to increase the range and total number of good bacteria in the gut. Go for fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and lentils to boost fiber intake.
- This Spinach Salad is a quick and easy summer recipe for lunch or a light dinner. Chickpeas, walnuts, and feta cheese give this spinach salad a hearty lift along with 10 grams of fiber.
- Keep moving. Research shows that activity, along with a healthy diet may promote healthy gut bacteria.
Research continues to evolve about the relationship between a healthy gut microbiome and nutrition, immunity, and overall health.