We hear a lot of about gut health at the moment. Our gut microbiota, that is, the bacteria in our gut have been linked to numerous health issues.
The research in this area has exploded exponentially and continues to grow. As a result, we have seen a proliferation of probiotics (healthy gut microbes) on the market in the last few years. It can be a little bit confusing to know which probiotic to take, for how long and for which condition.
While probiotics can be helpful, the most useful way of maintaining a healthy gut microbiome is to have a healthy diet. This means eating a whole plant food based diet that is not too high in protein and fat and is low in processed foods and preservatives.
Specifically, the foods that nourish and restore the gut microbiota can be included in 4 main groups:
Whole plant foods – these are mainly plant-based and are rich in fibre
Polyphenol rich foods – these are colourful foods rich in antioxidants
Prebiotic rich foods – these foods promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut (like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria).
Resistant starch foods – these foods ‘resist’ digestion until they reach the large bowel. They promote the growth of healthy bacteria and reduce the risk of colon cancer.
1) Whole plant foods
whole grains - whole grain rice and oats and rye
2) Polyphenol-rich foods
Fruits: Blueberries, black currants, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, plums, cherries, black grapes and red apples
Nuts and seeds: flaxseed meal, chestnuts, hazelnuts, pecans
Vegetables: Purple carrots, red carrots, purple/red potatoes, red cabbage, spinach, red onions, broccoli, carrots, red lettuce
Grains: Red rice, black rice, whole grain rye bread (sourdough)
Other: Black olives and olive oil
3) Prebiotic-rich foods
Jerusalem Artichokes, burdock root, chicory root, dandelion root, garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus and globe artichokes
Legumes, Brassica-family vegetables, fresh beans, beetroot, sourdough, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, LSA mix (crushed Linseeds, Sunflower seeds and Almonds).
4) Resistant starch-rich foods
Legumes e.g. red lentils, kidney beans, adzuki beans
Bananas - green is better
Cooked and cooled potatoes roasted ˃steamed
Sweet potatoes, cassava
Oats – higher amounts if uncooked