There are many great foods that can aid gut health. And variety counts. We need to eat different foods that can help feed our good gut bacteria. Different bacteria like different foods. The research is on-going and we do not have specific information for specific beneficial strains. We do know that people who have a diverse whole food diet have a more robust set of microflora and better health.
Here are a few key players to add to the diet:
When made using kefir grains, kefir contains 32 strains of good bacteria and yeast that live synergistically. This makes it one of the best ferments in terms of getting a diversity of beneficial microbes. Additionally, you don’t need to eat much to get a large amount of microbes. One study revealed that just 1 tsp of kefir contains about 50 billion CFUs! When made with cow or goat milk, it contains GOS, an amazing prebiotic. Many people who have issues with dairy have no problem with kefir. If they do, there are ways to use the kefir grains with coconut milk. There have been many studies determining the health benefits of kefir. It inhibits Candida Albicans, regulates inflammation, helps with acne and eczema, lowers triglycerides and cholesterol, stabilizes blood sugar, is antimicrobial, supports the immune system and has anti-tumour properties. Serving size should be 1/4 -1/2 cup. Start with a smaller amount and work up. Add it into smoothies, serve with granola, or just drink it up! Not all kefirs are made with kefir grains, so be sure to check with the company or better yet, make your own.
Probably one of the most well-known fermented foods, sauerkraut is made with cabbage and is fermented in a brine made of salt and cabbage juice. It must be made without oxygen. Sauerkraut is not just a source of good bacteria, it also contains prebiotic fibre. It can be purchased from a health food or grocery stores and should be purchased from a refrigerator case and not the store shelf. Phytochemicals in cabbage are more bioavailable and may protect against carcinogens. Enzymes found in sauerkraut may help with ulcers. Sauerkraut is also a good source of vitamin C, which is found in every cell of the body the gut loves it. Serving size should be 1/4-1/2 cup.
3. Bone Broth
The best kind is the kind you make yourself, but it is available in health food and specialty stores. The key to bone broth is how long the bones are simmered in the water. The longer the bones simmer, the more minerals, amino acids, and collagen will be present in the broth. These are key nutrients to help the gut function well and help repair when it is not working as it should. For vegetarians, make your own veggie broth and add vegetarian glutamine and agar agar to give it more gut health benefits. It can be consumed daily and is good as a base for soups and stews. However, it can also be consumed as a beverage on its own. Just heat a cup of broth and season it to taste with sea salt, pepper and your favourite herbs. Pour it in a mug and relax as you sip it like a tea or coffee.
4. Cruciferous Vegetables
Broccoli, cauliflower, kale, bok choy, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts are an amazing source of prebiotic fibre, but generally do not cause digestive issues for people who are bothered by oligosaccharrides. Whether they are consumed raw or lightly steamed, they provide a number of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that aid the function of the gut. Try to consume them on a regular basis, even daily, if possible.
All beans are good for the gut, but legumes like chickpeas, black beans and kidney beans deliver more help than their younger siblings green beans, edamame and peas. They contain resistant start which is essential for feeding a specific type of bacteria in our colon which, in turn, produce beneficial short chain fatty acids that help our immune system, regulate inflammation and do other beneficial activities in the body. Consuming a legume every day is a great for the gut. If you have trouble digesting legumes, place cooked legumes in a jar with water, 1 teaspoon sea salt and 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar. Screw on a lid tightly and let sit at least overnight and up to two weeks.
Whole grains such as wheat, rye, barley, spelt, kamut, brown rice are all great sources of resistant starch, even more so than legumes. Potatoes and corn are also good sources. They support the body and the gut as a source of B vitamins and they help our good gut bacteria make even more B vitamins for us. For those who have trouble digesting grains, fermenting the grains may be the answer. This means buying or making sourdough bread. Many true sourdoughs are available from local bakeries and it can be purchased online. It will contain flour, water and bacterial culture. No yeast. Studies show sourdough bread, even made with white flour, can stabilize blood sugar and improve immune system response. By fermenting the bread, much of the gluten is broken down as well as the carbohydrates. It is a great option for the gut
7. Jerusalem Artichokes
One the highest foods for prebiotic fibre, Jerusalem artichokes (also known as sunchokes) are extremely helpful for gut health. They also help stabilize blood sugar and support liver function. Look for them in the fall and winter in health food and grocery stores. They can be consumed raw or they can be added to vegetables dishes or substituted for potatoes. They have a different type of prebiotic fibre than potatoes so mixing the two together is great way to get the best of both.
As a traditional Korean fermented food, kimchi is receiving a lot of attention from researchers. Like sauerkraut, kimchi is made with cabbage, but also often contains daikon radish, ginger, onions and other good foods for the gut. Certain strains in kimchi have been shown to aid the detoxification of heavy metals and Bisphenol-A (found in plastic) from the gastrointestinal tract, preventing them from entering the body. It also helps protect against heart disease, aids weight loss and boosts the immune system. Kimchi is available in health food or grocery stores and again, should be from a refrigerator case and not the store shelf.
Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and all their cousins contain phytonutrients that have many powerful benefits, but they also are loved as food by our good gut bacteria. As a grab and go food, they are simple to consume. Add them to breakfast meals, smoothies, or baked goodies. Remember, variety is always a key for gut heath so have different varieties of berries. Dried berries such as goji or goldenberries are also good options.
10. Garlic, Onions and Leeks
Not only are garlic, onions and leeks great prebiotic foods that feed good gut bacteria, they also contain phytochemicals that are antibacterial and antifungal. This means they can help control bad bacteria and fungus that may cause us symptoms. These phytochemicals do not hurt our good bacteria. It is no wonder that we include them is many savoury recipes. If these are foods you like, be sure to continue to add them when and where you want.
Bananas, citrus fruits, sweet potatoes, quinoa, carrots, asparagus, apples, pears, spinach, kombucha, yogurt, wine, unpasteurized beer, dark chocolate, apple cider vinegar, honey, maple syrup, almonds, tomatoes, chia seeds, flax seed and hemp seeds are just a few foods that also aid the gut.