The following is a guest post by Kate Gavlick, an Oregon-based blogger and nutritionist. You can find Kate's blog at http://www.vegukate.com/
The topic of gut health, or the health of your gastrointestinal tract, is more popular than ever, as having a poorly functioning gut is linked with a variety of disease states, including anxiety, depression, obesity, IBS and IBD, and more. Although the science and research between gut health and disease isn’t crystal clear, what we do know is that having a healthy gut is a very good thing.
What’s especially good news is that we can improve the health of our gut through what we put into our body: i.e. what we eat! Here are my favorite foods that promote a healthy gut and help keep me balanced and well:
- Fermented Foods
Probiotics, sometimes referred to as “good bacteria,” (though they aren’t just bacteria – they’re also yeast and other tiny living organisms) reside in our gut, and in the foods we eat. We have an estimated 100 trillion bacteria residing in our guts, which equates to roughly seven pounds! These bacteria (and yeast, and more) are helpful for fighting off illness and combatting “bad” bacteria, aiding with digestion, synthesizing short-chain fatty acids and vitamins, and so much more. You may have heard of some of these probiotics, or seen them named on a bottle of probiotics or a carton of yogurt. Some of the more well known bacteria include Lactobacillus, Streptococcus thermophilus, Bascillus subtilis, and Bifidobacteria.
Although you can purchase probiotic supplements, I prefer getting my daily dose from fermented foods, which are naturally rich in probiotics, rather than in supplement form. Some of my favorite sources of fermented foods are kimchi and sauerkraut (look for jars only in the refrigerated section!), fermented vegetables, minimally sweetened grass-fed dairy yogurt, coconut yogurt, kefir, and kombucha. Health Ade’s varieties of kombucha are rich in friendly bacteria and yeast, which grow and thrive as the kombucha ferments. I love the Ginger-Lemon variety, which is filled with gut-loving goodness.
- Leafy Greens
Leafy greens like kale, spinach, collard greens, arugula, and more contain unusual sugar molecules that may make them super beneficial healthy gut foods, according to a 2016 study published in Nature. The study found an unusual, yet abundant sugar, called sulfoquinovose (known as SQ for short) found in leafy greens was a popular “snack” for friendly bacteria, fungi, and other organisms in the gut. Every time we eat leafy greens, we get a mega dose of SQ sugar, which is used as food for good bacteria in the gut. This suggests that leafy greens are essential for feeding good bacteria, which limits the growth and proliferation of bad bacteria.
Leafy greens are also rich in fiber, which is essential for digestive regularity – which of course, supports the health of your gut! You’ll also get vitamins, minerals, and even a little protein with leafy greens, too.
- Healthy Fats
Healthy fats, including fats that come from coconut oil, grass-fed butter and ghee, nuts, seeds, avocado, fatty fish, avocado oil, olive oil, and eggs, are also beneficial for optimal gut health. Consumption of these foods has been linked to healthier gut bacteria, lowered inflammation levels, and increased weight loss.
Healthy fats also help to absorb fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) within the gut, and may have a positive impact on hormones, skin, and digestion as well.
Along with eating a healthy, balanced diet rich in healthy fats, leafy greens, and fermented foods, managing stress levels and getting adequate sleep also contribute to having a healthy gut. As much as I can, I tend to each of these areas so my gut is as healthy as it can be!
Kate is a Portland, Oregon based nutritionist with a master's degree in nutrition, blogger and content creator, photographer, and advocate for eating healthy, whole foods! Kate believes in nourishing the body with foods that make you feel healthy, radiant, and wholesome, and is obsessed with all things avocado, dark chocolate, and kombucha! When she's not blogging and cooking in her kitchen, Kate is hiking with her fiancé, exploring Portland's delicious food scene, and going to barre3 classes!