Is a healthy gut the key to a healthy body? The trillions of bacteria living in our gut benefit us in many ways such as regulating digestion, controlling hormones, boosting the immune system and extracting key nutrients from foods. Luckily there are a few things you can do to improve your gut health, read our nutritionist Gemmas top 5 tips below.
1. Eat prebiotic foods
Prebiotics are fibres that the body can’t digest and therefore travel down to the gut and feed the beneficial bacteria. Examples include foods that contain resistant starch (oats and other grains, seeds and legumes), fruit and vegetables rich in inulin (onions, leeks, garlic, Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus and bananas), apples which contain pectin, and seaweed.
2. Eat probiotic foods
Probiotics are live bacteria which make it to your gut intact and colonise it with good bacteria. Although you can take probiotic supplements, it’s best to eat a variety of probiotic rich foods. Examples include fermented foods like sauerkraut (fermented cabbage), kimchi (fermented cabbage and spices), kombucha (fermented tea), miso (fermented soyabeans) and fermented dairy foods like yogurt and cheese.
3. Eat a varied diet
Eating a variety of different foods improves the diversity of our gut microbes and experts consider this to be the key to a healthy gut. Include lots of plant based foods and aim for 30 different varieties per week including fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, herbs and spices.
4. Eat foods rich in polyphenols
The microbes in our gut feed offs foods rich in polyphenols. Polyphenols are naturally occurring compounds which are excellent sources of antioxidants, these antioxidants protect the body against oxidative stress that is the underlying cause of chronic disease. Examples include nuts, seeds, extra virgin olive oil, coffee, dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids) and red wine.
5. Exercise regularly
Exercise is good for our heart and for staying in shape, but it also increases the biodiversity of our microbes, which is the key to a healthy gut. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week such as brisk walking or cycling, and include strength exercises on 2 or more days that work all the major muscles groups.