8 foods to eat for a healthy gut
We’re at the end of January and your New Year diet resolutions may be in full swing or, like many people, perhaps they’ve fallen by the wayside. Even if you are hitting the gym and counting calories with fresh vigour…are you looking after your gut health?
It’s all too easy to get bogged down by worrying about our appearance, but being healthy and happy is so much more than a number on a scale.
Our typical diet today – highly processed and full of sugar, saturated fat and lacking fibre – can wreak havoc with our digestive systems and gut bacteria.
A healthy gut has major importance for overall health, energy levels, fighting off diseases including cancer, properly absorbing healthy nutrients and eliminating waste, all while fending off nasty microbes.
So if you want to boost your health, start with your gut. Shona Wilkinson, leading nutritionist at NutriCentre, gives her her advice on what we can eat to aid digestion.
1. Fermented foods
“Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, pickled vegetables in brine, yoghurt, buttermilk and kefir would be a great way to kick-start your digestion,” says Shona. “They help feed the friendly bacteria in our guts, helping them to multiply in a healthy environment.” Fermented foods have the unique ability to ease digestive discomfort caused by having either too much or too little stomach acid.
Dietary fibre – found mainly in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes – is well known for its ability to prevent or relieve constipation. “Fibre-rich foods such as avocados, nuts, seeds, broccoli, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, asparagus and green beans may help relieve digestive discomfort and enhance overall digestive health,” Shona advises.
High-fibre foods can help maintain a healthy weight as they tend to be more filling than low-fibre foods. They also lower your risk of diabetes and heart disease because they help lower cholesterol and control blood sugar levels.
3. Bone broth
It may not sound appetising but broth from grass-fed beef bones or organic chicken bones is an extremely nutritious liquid. “Bone broth is important for healing the gut and aiding healthy digestion,” says Shona. “The gelatine found in bone broth is a hydrophilic colloid. This means it attracts and holds liquids, including digestive juices, thereby enhancing digestion. Bone broths are also rich in glycine, an amino acid (protein) found in collagen, which is important in maintaining a healthy gut lining.”
Cinnamon has a long history as a digestive aid. As well as a powder in your spice rack, this herb is also available as sticks, capsules, teas and liquid extracts. “Cinnamon is a lovely spice to add to your food. Not only does it improve digestion but it also helps to balance blood sugar levels,” Shona explains. You can sprinkle it on your morning latte and oatmeal, or use it to add spice to a soup or stew.
Mint is well known for its breath-freshening qualities, but it also promotes digestion. “Mint has been shown to help soothe the abdomen and relax digestive discomfort,” says Shona. So when you feel sick to your stomach, drinking a cup of mint tea can give you relief.
Fennel, a plant with an anise-like taste, is a great addition to your diet. “Fennel may help with flatulence and intestinal spasms,” advises Shona. Scientific theory suggests that fennel works by relaxing the colon or decreasing respiratory secretions. Try fennel soup with winter green vegetables or sprinkle it over pasta and salads.
“Turmeric is rich in curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory properties and is particularly useful for inflammation in the gut,” says Shona. “Turmeric also helps with fat digestion, along with supporting the liver.” Turmeric’s bitter taste makes a tasty addition to sautéed and steamed vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and onions.
8. Healthy fats
Not all fats are created equal. One of the most common mistakes people trying to lose weight make is not eating enough of the right fat. But carefully chosen fats can enhance your digestion. “Healthy fats such as salmon, seafood, nuts, seeds, avocado, coconut and pure olive oil should be included in your diet,” Shona recommends. “Fat molecules are a rich source of energy and help the body to absorb vitamins.”