Written by Tai Ibitoye
Image by @press_healthfoods
Huns, gut health is key to our overall health and wellbeing. Having good gut health is linked to better wellness and needing to take less time off sick. Our gut contains a lot of microbes (bacteria) that play a role in producing different hormones and vitamins in the body, and we could not survive without them. Having said this, the bacteria in our gut helps our body absorb essential nutrients from the food we eat. Also, most of the cells that make up our immune system are found in our digestive system. More recently, there has been a great interest in the connection between the gut and brain, especially on how the gut can influence our mental wellbeing, so it is important to make sure that we are looking after our gut!
One of the ways we can do this is by feeding it the right types of food. Here are some foods you should consider including in your diet:
1) Fruits and vegetables
Filling your diet with loads of fruit and veggies helps improve gut bacteria diversity. They are excellent sources of fibre which helps with digestion and constipation. It is recommended that we eat at least 5 portions of fruits and vegetables a day, with 1 portion equivalent to 80g so we should have at least 400g variety of fruits and vegetables in total. Most of us are not meeting our 5-a-day recommendation so now is the time to increase your intake.
Some ways to increase fruit and vegetable intake includes:
– Topping breakfast cereals or porridge with fruits like blueberries, strawberries or banana
– Having a salad side dish or steamed vegetables with main meals
– Having vegetables sticks (carrots, celery and cucumber) with low-fat hummus or salsa as a snack or having whole fruits.
– Including mixed vegetables in rice or pasta dishes.
Also Read: 4 Hacks to Build Healthier Snacking Habits
2) Fermented foods
Most fermented foods contain probiotics which are ‘good’ bacteria that can beneficially affect our health by improving the balance and function of the gut bacteria. Having fermented foods can add different flavours and textures to your diet. Examples of fermented foods to try include:
– Kombucha – a type of fermented tea
– Sauerkraut – fermented cabbage
– Kimchi – korean cuisine made of fermented vegetables like cabbage and radish seasoned with chilli powder, garlic and ginger.
– Kefir – fermented milk drink similar to yoghurt
– Miso – paste made from fermented soybeans, usually used as main ingredient in miso soup
– Sourdough – made by the fermentation of dough using naturally occurring bacteria (lactobacilli) and yeast
– Bio live yoghurt – yoghurt that contains live, active cultures of lactobacillus bacteria
– Garri – cassava-based fermented food
– Ogi/pap – fermented food made from maize, sorghum or millet
– Injera – fermented flatbread
– Kenkey – fermented and cooked maize dough, wrapped in leaves.
Legumes are a very nutritious and versatile plant-based food group that includes beans (red kidney beans, black beans, cannellini beans and even baked beans!), chickpeas and lentils. These can be included in soups, stews, curries, rice dishes or served as a side dish or to replace animal-based proteins like red meat. They are a good source of prebiotics that our gut bacteria can feed upon. Eating prebiotics causes more good gut bacteria to grow in the gut. Interestingly, legumes can contribute towards 5 portions of fruits and vegetables a day. Although note… 80g of legumes (which is equivalent to 3 heaped tablespoons) can only count once as part of your 5 A Day, no matter how many you eat1 This is because although they’re a good source of fibre, they contain fewer nutrients than other fruits and vegetables.