When your gut health is not optimal, your entire life suffers. From the embarrassing symptoms of bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation and abdominal pain, to the inability to even go out to social events because you are afraid you'll need to keep running to the bathroom. While there are many triggers that cause gut health issues, eating the right foods is one way to help reduce the frequency of digestive distress.
One caveat is if you are sensitive or allergic to a food, no matter how good it may be for your gut health, you shouldn't eat it. How do you know if you have a sensitivity or allergy to a food? Sometimes it is easy to know. If within two hours of eating you are bloated, have gas and feel intensely tired, you probably have a sensitivity or allergy to the food. But those symptoms may not actually appear for 2 days! Just eliminating foods you suspect is causing your problems may or may not work. You can take an at home food allergy and sensitivity test from EverlyWell. This test will identify foods you should not eat. When you know what foods to eliminate from your life, it can really help your gut to heal.
Here are 12 of the best foods to ultimately boost your gut health.
Eating leafy greens benefits gut health by providing potassium and vitamin K. Potassium works to connect the mind with the gut. When you have enough potassium in your body, the mind tells the gut that there is food to digest in your body. When potassium levels are low, the mind can't effectively tell the gut to digest food which leads to slow movement of food in your system. This can result in bloating or constipation. (Source: HealthLine)
Did you know that 98% of Americans do not get the recommended amount of potassium? Increasing the amount of leafy green vegetables that you eat every day will help bring up potassium in your system. Plus, your digestion will be more regular which improves your overall gut health.
Since we just discussed the benefits of gut health by eating enough potassium every day, the bean section will focus on protein. Protein is necessary for good gut health. One caveat is that the protein sources need to be lean and not eaten in excess. Eating more protein than you need daily can result in increased pathogens and increased risk of diseases. Too much protein results in protein-fermenting bacteria to grow in our guts. This bacteria can contribute to colon cancer and inflammatory bowel diseases. (Source: Current Protein & Peptide Science; August 2017, Vol. 18 Issue: 8 p795-808, 14p)
How much protein is enough protein? Animal protein should be kept to a minimum. In fact, when you are over 30, eating about 3 ounces weekly is enough for most of us. Eating plant-based protein should be the major source of daily protein intake. From the age 30 and older, eating 30-40 grams of plant-based protein daily will keep your gut healthy and support good overall health. It is easy to increase plant-based protein by simply eating a wide variety of vegetables, beans and nuts. It may seem hard at first, but like anything, starting off slowly by maybe not eating meat once a week will help you build this healthy habit.
Pistachios are high in potassium but they have also been studied for their effects on the good bacteria in our gut. In fact, a study showed that pistachios increase Butyrate-producing bacteria in our guts. Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid that provides fuel for the cells of our gut lining, supports immune system functions of the colon wall and protects against certain diseases of the digestive tract. (Source: Atlas BioMed)
Avocado's are one of the best fruits you can eat every week. They are high in vitamins, nutrients and healthy fats. Avocado's are high in fiber with approximately 6-7 grams per half fruit. Eating foods with natural fiber can help prevent constipation, maintain a healthy digestive tract, and lower the risk of colon cancer. (Source: Medical News Today)
I could eat broccoli everyday for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I never get tired of it. Broccoli is high in fiber and has been studied for it's impact on gut health.
A study in mice on a broccoli diet found reduced levels of inflammation in the colon, as well as favorable changes in gut bacteria.
A recent human study indicated that people who ate broccoli were able to defecate more easily than individuals in the control group. (Source: HealthLine)
Bell peppers are high in Vitamin C. Most of us think about Vitamin C as only being good for the immune system. Vitamin C also helps support a healthy gut. It does this by supporting healthy teeth and gums and helping the body absorb iron. (Source: EveryDay Health)Any color of bell pepper will do when you want to add them to your cooking routine. I especially love the mini-peppers that can be easily eaten as a snack.
GARLIC, GINGER & TURMERIC
One of the most common ailments of the gut is inflammation. Eating spices like garlic, ginger and turmeric regularly helps combat inflammation. Ginger and turmeric can also be found in organic herbal teas designed for supporting a healthy gut. Drinking tea a couple of times a week is very helpful in fighting inflammation of the gut.
Miso soup is a great afternoon snack that is both satisfying and can heal the gut. Miso is made from fermented soybeans. This means it is high in beneficial bacteria, which is good for the gut. Also, the fermentation process means that miso is rich in enzymes. Fermentation enhances the number of beneficial bacteria in the food. These bacteria are known as probiotics and are thought to help a wide range of health issues, especially for digestion, absorption and assimilation of nutrients. (Source: BBC)
While chlorophyll is the pigment of fruits and vegetables, I listed it as its own food because it can be bought as a supplement or in powder form to add to smoothies. Chlorophyll helps with digestion by increasing the beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract. It’s also antimicrobial, so it gets rid of harmful bacteria while maintaining healthy ones. (Source: Well and Good)
The saying, an apple a day keeps the doctor away, is really true! Apples are a nutritional powerhouse. Not only are they packed with fiber and antioxidants, they also contain good bacteria. Good bacteria is critical for keeping the gut healthy by helping to ward off pathogens.
Tempeh is one of my favorite foods to replace meat in most recipes. Since it is pretty bland in taste, it works well with a variety of sauces and spices. Tempeh is fermented soy. It’s a good source of probiotics—and, because it contains all the essential amino acids, it’s a complete source of vegetarian protein. (Source: EatingWell)
Walnuts have been studied for their role in gut health. They have the perfect ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 and are a great source of fiber. The way our bodies metabolize walnuts appears to have a protective effect on our gut. Researchers are working to further understand why. (Source: Mind Body Green)
I hope this article about the 12 best foods for boosting your gut health inspires you to add more gut healthy food to your daily routine. Remember, when making a change to your routine, it takes 21 days before a new habit is formed. Start off with small changes, such as eating 1 avocado every week, to make long term changes that will eventually just become part of your routine.
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