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Best Foods for Gut Health

These days, gut health is all the rage – and for a good reason. Beyond supporting digestion, our gut has demonstrated a role in metabolism, immunity, mental health, vitamin production and preventing the development of chronic disease. With all of the research demonstrating the benefits of a health gut, it’s time to start treating our friendly gut microbes like the heroes they are!

Lucky for us, most people can improve their gut health naturally through the diet! Here are the best types of food for gut health:

 

Fiber

Believe it or not, deep within our large intestine we have a small (and mighty) army of microbes that are known as our “gut microbiome” or “gut microbiota”. As humans, food is what fuels our bodies, and similarly, the microbes in our gut feed off of the food that we eat. 

This is where fiber comes in. Fiber comes from plant-based foods like vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, and it is quite literally defined as “undigestible plant matter”. Fiber reaches our gut in its intact, undigested form, and essentially fuels the microbes in our gut. In fact, our gut microbes rely on fiber as their main source of energy, breaking it down into nutrients that our body can use.

Here are some good high-fiber foods to add into your diet: 

  • Legumes and beans of all sorts like lentils, chickpeas, peas, black beans, etc.
  • Whole grains such as barley, quinoa, brown rice, bran and oats
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables – especiallyunpeeled fruits and vegetables 
  • Nuts and seeds – like almonds, cashews, walnuts, chia, flax, hemp hearts.

To get your fill of fiber, aim to eat at least 4 to 5 servings of plant foods each day, which is more than enough to encourage gut health!

 

Specifically, prebiotic fiber

While any and all fiber is good for our gut, prebiotic fiber is the best. That’s because prebiotics are fermentable by our gut microbes, whereas other types of fiber are not. As a result, they’re broken down into usable energy and beneficial nutrients for our body. You can think of prebiotics as superfoods for your gut microbes because they’re associated with the greatest health benefits! 

Try adding these prebiotic-rich foods into your diet:

  • Whole grains:Oats
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables:Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, onion, bananas, leeks, garlic, soybeans, blueberries, spinach
  • Nuts and seeds: Almonds, pistachios, chia and flax seeds

 

Probiotics

Probiotic foods contain live microorganisms (like the microbes living in your gut) that promote health. So, probiotic foods add to the number of beneficial microbes in our gut, and the more the merrier!

Many fermented foods contain naturally occurring probiotics, while other foods may be fortified with probiotics. The most important consideration when buying probiotic foods is to check labels for “live” or “active” cultures and ensure they’re refrigerated. These factors can separate the good probiotics (which live up to the hype), from the others that may not be as effective.

Consider adding some of these probiotic foods into your diet: 

  • Fermented soy-based foods, like Tempeh or Miso
  • Probiotic yogurt
  • Kimchi (fermented vegetables)
  • Sauerkraut (fermented cabbage)
  • Kefir (fermented milk)
  • Kombucha (fermented tea)

 

Pro-tip:

To maximize gut health consider eating probiotics with prebiotics in a single, ultra-healthy meal. Eating probiotics and prebiotics together produces a “synbiotic” effect which is linked to even greater gut health benefits. For inspiration, try one of these gut-healthy food combinations: 

  • Yogurt with bananas or blueberries, eaten alone or in a smoothie
  • Kimchi Miso Soup
  • Garlic herb baked tempeh

Consider adding high-fiber ingredients to sweeten the deal. Our favourite way to bump up the fiber content is by adding a few tablespoons of Holy Crap Cereal to a meal. Loaded with super seeds, like chia, hemp hearts and buckwheat, two tablespoons of Holy Crap cereals provide 8g of fiber!

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