Gut health is always high on our agenda, but as this month is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month we have taken a special look at how we can best support healthy gut function.
The gut is often referred to as the second brain, as it contains a whole host of microbes that affect our physiology and keep our body and brain functioning as they should, it can be linked to mood, mental wellbeing, the immune system and regulating the bodies hormones and energy levels.
So, what are the best foods for gut health? Get the answers below so you can heal your gut, stay regular and support your overall health.
The NHS recommends 30g of fibre, which can help aid digestion and prevent constipation. Fibre-rich foods include fruit, vegetables, brown rice, wholemeal bread, beans and oats.
Fibre feeds the good bacteria in the gut, so it’s vital to eat fibre-rich foods as often as possible.
Our microbes extract the fibre’s energy, nutrients, and vitamins, including short-chain fatty acids, which can improve immune function, decrease inflammation and protect against obesity.
Most diets are found to be lacking in fibre-rich foods, and if you are going to start boosting your fibre intake please ensure this is done gradually, as a sudden increase can cause discomfort and bloating.
Also, make sure that your body is able to digest this plethora of fibre-full food by having a glass of water with every meal!
If you fancy giving your fibre intake a boost you want to take a look at our Sweet and Tangy Fig Salad recipe which is simple and delicious, and most importantly full of fibre!
Consider cutting down on fatty foods
Has a high-fat meal ever left you feeling bloated and sluggish? It turns out that a heavier fat diet may keep the many bacteria that live in your digestive system from functioning as they should.
Research found that when people boosted their fat intake to 40% of their daily diet for six months, the number of "good" gut bacteria decreased while "unhelpful" bacteria amounts increased.
Fatty foods and deep-fried foods can also be harder for the body to digest, meaning the good gut bacteria isn’t getting the nutrients it needs.
Remember, everything in moderation, and not all fats are bad, which you might know from our previous blog Fat Is't A Bad Word, well worth a read (even if we do say so ourselves) if you want to learn about how good fats can help elevate superfoods with a simple drizzle.
Do you know about probiotics, prebiotics, and fermented foods?
Okay, so first things first let’s go through the basics, Probiotics are good gut bugs made up of live bacteria and yeast, whilst prebiotics are essentially the food for these bacteria to thrive on. Probiotics are found in fermented foods, as well as in some supplements, and prebiotics are found in certain fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. The most central prebiotic of all is our good fibre.
Although research is split about the effects of pre and probiotics many people believe that they help to promote good gut health, although there is little evidence to support these findings and it differs from person to person, it isn’t harmful to try them out.
Fibre isn’t the only gut boosting F word, we also need to look at Fermented foods as a key component in supporting gut health. Fermentation isn’t a new find, it has actually been around for centuries as a way to preserve foods.
Fermentation takes place when bacteria or yeast is added to a particular food, and they feed on the natural sugars. These microorganisms create lactic acid or alcohol, which help preserve the food, and creates probiotics.
Fermented foods give your gut healthy, living microorganisms and can help aid absorption of minerals, and support overall health.
It may seem obvious but a plant-based diet is one that focuses on including a variety of foods that are loaded with fibre – fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
As you may already know fibre is key in gut health, but it is also important that your diet consists of eating a combination of different types of fibre as a healthy gut has a vast community of microbes, all of which prefer different types of foods.
Soluble fibre: helps lower cholesterol and slow digestion. Eat more legumes, oats, barley, nuts, fruits and veggies.
Insoluble fibre: promotes regular bowel movements. Eat more whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits and veggies.
Resistant starch: act as food for our healthy gut bacteria (potentially the most important type). Eat more legumes (lentils, beans), whole grains, potatoes and firm bananas.
If you’re thinking of going towards a vegan or plant-based diet, you might want to check out our Veganuary inspired blog post here, offering our top plant-based tips.
Eat your way to gut health!
Help boost your gut health by eating foods that are rich in inulin, such as Dandelion Greens, Artichokes and Asparagus, both of which are full of minerals and rich in inulin.
Inulin is a prebiotic that boosts your gut’s production of healthy, good-for-you bacteria, like bifidobacteria. Although dandelion greens can be bitter, it is recommended they are best enjoyed as a warming tea.
Other foods which research has shown to have a postive impact on your gut health are Broccoli, Apples, Bananas, Garlic, Seaweed, and Flaxseed just to name a few.
Always remember to consult your doctor before changing your diet, and good luck on your gut health journey.