A healthy gut doesn’t just ensure uninterrupted digestion but also contributes to the absorption of vital nutrients and elimination of harmful toxins. The naturally occurring bacteria in your digestive tract, known as the microbiome, impact your health in more ways than you’d know. These organisms help keep chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and heart disease, at bay, while reducing the chances of bloating, inflammation and obesity. Therefore, it’s crucial to incorporate gut-friendly foods in your diet that promote a healthy balance in your digestive system. In this well-articulated list, we bring you ten foods that are good for your gut health.
Number one: Tempeh
One of the most commonly consumed fermented soy products around South East Asia is tempeh, which is loaded with protein, making it a great meat-alternative for vegetarians and vegans. Tempeh also offers benefits of various vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, manganese, zinc, and B-vitamins. According to researchers and nutritionists, such high-protein soy snacks aid in appetite control and improve diet quality, thereby reducing hunger and promoting satiety. Similar to other fermented products, tempeh contains probiotics, hence it reduces the risk of gastrointestinal infection and inflammation. This versatile and nutritious ingredient can be prepared in several ways, including baking, grilling or steaming, before being added to a variety of dishes such as sandwiches, salads, gyro wraps and even stir-fries. However, it should be noted that tempeh may not be suitable for everyone, as it can trigger an allergic reaction for those who are allergic to soy. Moreover, soybeans are known to contain a substance called goitrogen that can interfere with thyroid function. So, those with thyroid disorders such as hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism may want to limit their tempeh intake.
Number two: Garlic
The ever-versatile garlic contains a dynamic prebiotic duo, inulin fiber and prebiotic fructooligosaccharides (FOS). Inulin is a type of non-digestible carbohydrate or prebiotic fiber that feeds the gut-friendly bacteria, thereby improving your overall digestive health. Not to mention, garlic is also known for its antioxidant, antimicrobial and anticancer properties while preventing cardiovascular diseases. It also promotes the growth of bacteria beneficial to the gut and hinders infection-causing pathogens to develop in the digestive tract at the same time. To attain maximum benefits from prebiotic fibers found in garlic, it’s best to consume it raw since garlic starts losing its prebiotic properties when it’s cooked. So, you can add grated, crushed or finely chopped garlic to your salad dressings and cauliflower pizza as a topping.
Number three: Bananas
According to reliable studies conducted by nutritionists, snacking on bananas boosts levels of healthy gut bacteria, namely bifidobacteria, while causing a significant reduction in bloating. Although regular yellow bananas can easily combat diarrhea, the best variety for your gut is the green unripe kind. These bananas contain resistant starch, an indigestible fiber that promotes the growth of gut microbiome while feeding these microorganisms at the same time. You can incorporate bananas into your diet in countless ways. Add it to healthy smoothies, or simply use it as a topping for your bowl of coconut yoghurt or grain-free cereal.
Number four: Apple cider vinegar
Next on the list is apple cider vinegar which stimulates the gastric lining of the stomach to release more hydrochloric acid, which in turn helps break down lipids, carbohydrates and proteins. Apple cider vinegar is also a source of probiotics and is known to relieve acid reflux in a considerably short time span.
Number five: Miso
This traditional Japanese seasoning can be best described as a fermented paste prepared from soybeans, rice, barley, seaweed or other ingredients. Due to its typically high sodium content, miso should always be consumed in moderation to prevent abnormal spikes in blood pressure or sodium-sensitive hypertension. This, however, doesn’t change the fact that miso is a known source of L. acidophilus, a gut-friendly bacteria produced during the fermentation process through which miso is usually made. It also contains protein and fiber, both of which are known to reduce the risk of intestinal disorders. Although miso isn’t a staple, little amounts of this scrumptious seasoning can easily be added to sauces, soup bases and dressings.
Number six: Yoghurt
Probably one of the most popular food options that’s teeming with probiotics is traditional dairy yoghurt. But what’s even more beneficial for you is coconut yoghurt, which health gurus claim is a great alternative especially if you’re vegan, lactose intolerant or following a paleo lifestyle. It’s super easy to make at home, all you need is a can of coconut milk and two probiotic pills fermented for a few days. It’s recommended to avoid adding any sugar to it, but if you’re really after some sweetness, try adding fruits like berries, passion fruit or pomegranate to it once it is ready to eat. You can also mix and match with a variety of recipes, such as coconut yoghurt with homemade strawberry jam that can be served fresh or packed in mini jars for a quick, healthy grab-and-go breakfast on busy workday mornings. Due to its probiotic nature, coconut yoghurt improves intestinal function, protects the digestive tract from infections and even reduces the risk of colon cancer. Being made from coconut milk means it offers additional gut-boosting properties, most important of which is supporting bowel regularity. Once you start consuming coconut yoghurt, you’ll soon realize that it’s a complete game-changer when it comes to improving your gut health.
Number seven: Kefir
Kefir is mostly labelled as a tangy, drinkable yoghurt but the method used to make it is what sets it apart from regular yoghurt. Traditional milk kefir uses kefir grains and whole cow’s milk, but now several alternatives such as coconut milk are preferred. Once the kefir grains, which resemble small gelatinous beads, are soaked in milk, the container is left covered for at least a day. This enables the bacteria and yeast to ferment the lactose into lactic acid, activating the bacteria to proliferate and grow. Considering the fact that kefir is high in probiotic content, it helps restore balance in the gut, thereby improving digestion and reducing digestive stress. You can drink this fermented milk on its own or utilize it in smoothies or healthy shakes. Some people also like to use kefir as a substitute of buttermilk in their recipes.
Number eight: Sauerkraut
Packed with vitamins, dietary fiber and probiotics, Sauerkraut can help relieve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and its regular usage has been associated with better gut health. Since it’s basically fermented cabbage, sauerkraut is yet another food rich in probiotics. Research shows that incorporating this into your diet can reduce uncomfortable digestive symptoms such as abdominal cramps, bloating and constipation, while being particularly beneficial to those suffering with conditions such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Another sauerkraut benefit is that it also contains high amounts of fiber which not only balances blood sugar levels and reduces cholesterol but also makes your meal satisfying, so it keeps you full for longer. It’s also loaded with Vitamins K and C, while being easy on the stomach since it’s more simpler to digest than raw cabbage. You can relish sauerkraut as a substitute for pickles on a sandwich, burger and hot dog or add it to a cheese platter to elevate its regular contents. Or simply enjoy it as a healthy snack!
Number nine: Kimchi
This traditional and widely popular spicy Korean dish is prepared with salted fermented vegetables, typically cabbage, alongside other ingredients such as garlic, ginger and onions. It may also boast other vegetable options including celery, carrot, radish eggplants or beets, which sets it apart from sauerkraut. The lacto-fermentation process that kimchi undergoes brings its characteristic sourness while contributing to various gut health benefits. For starters, the bacterium Lactobacillus found in this dish can help treat diarrhea and constipation while suppressing inflammation. Both fresh and fermented kimchi are low in calories and are proven to aid in weight loss. For those suffering from stomach and bowel pain, bowel-related disorders, leaky gut syndrome or gastrointestinal inflammation, it’s recommended to include a small amount of this tangy dish in their diet regularly. Kimchi can be consumed as a condiment or used in preparing millet and noodle dishes. So, it’s a great idea to add this Korean twist to your everyday meals while improving your gut health simultaneously.
Number ten: Kombucha
This tart, lightly carbonated tea is loaded with probiotics that are known to improve the growth of beneficial gut bacteria and influence immune function. Kombucha is usually formed by adding symbiotic colonies of bacteria and yeast along with sugar to green tea or black tea. As a result, the process of fermentation takes place, during which alcohol and chemical gases are produced, giving Kombucha natural carbonation. What makes kombucha favorable for gut health is the presence of acetic acid and lactic acid bacteria, the latter of which is known to function as a probiotic. Additionally, you can also benefit from the antioxidants present in green tea by consuming kombucha. The amount of alcohol present in this drink is mostly less than one percent, so it’s definitely nothing to worry about. However, some kombuchas do contain more than two percent alcohol and can even contain caffeine and artificial sweeteners, which can negatively impact gut bacteria. So it’s always advised to read labels!
To reap the benefits of these ten beneficial foods, try to incorporate these into your diet for an improved digestive function. After all, having a balanced, nutritious diet paves the way for better gut health.
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