Written by PERKii iinfluencer, Nicole Saliba (Dietician and Nutritionist)
With all of the recent conversation about gut health, working out what's right for you can feel pretty overwhelming! As a dietician and nutritionist, I'm often asked: "what exactly should I be eating for optimal gut health?"
So I thought I would simplify things by explaining the three food 'groups' that you should be factoring into your diet, to achieve optimal gut health:
1. Prebiotic Rich Foods
Prebiotics are carbohydrates that pass through the body undigested until they reach the colon. These prebiotics are fermented in the colon where they fuel the good bacteria in our gut. In essence, prebiotics are food for probiotics as they are important fuel sources for the healthy bacteria in our gut, helping them increase in numbers.
Inulin (not to be confused with insulin!) is a common prebiotic and it’s naturally found in garlic, asparagus, onions, soybeans, leeks and artichokes. However, prebiotics are also now added to many foods including breakfast cereals, bread, table spreads, drinks and yoghurt in the form of inulin which has been extracted from Jerusalem artichokes or chicory root. Other sources of prebiotic dietary fibres include fruit (banana and apples), konjac root (which low calorie “shirataki” or more “slender” noodles are made out of), beta-glucan found in oats, psyllium husk and wholegrain cereals such as barley, rye and wheat bran. All of these options are great ways of boosting your prebiotic fibre intake and will support strong gut health.
2. Probiotic-Rich Foods
Probiotics are live ‘friendly’ bacteria or microorganisms that help maintain a healthy gut by reducing the number of harmful bacteria and also produce specific fatty acids that feed the cells lining the gut keeping them healthy and boost our immune function. Probiotics are also important for a healthy immune system, for optimal absorption of nutrients and for the production of vitamin K. There are many different strains that can be found in fermented foods. The most common types of probiotics are Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli spp. Yoghurts, Yakult, kefir (Russian inspired fermented dairy drink), kimchi (Korean inspired fermented vegetables and spices), tempeh, sauerkraut (fermented cabbage) and miso are all foods that are rich in probiotics. There are lots of new products on the market that have added probiotic strains such as kombucha and coconut yoghurts.
Getting probiotic-rich foods into your diet can be challenging, particularly if you suffer from allergies, or have diet restrictions. Probiotics like PERKii are an excellent supplement.
Many antioxidants are polyphenols, a large group of chemical compounds found in plants. Some sources of polyphenols such as those found in green and black tea can inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria, whilst others can stimulate the growth of beneficial microbiota. Other potential health benefits include anti-cancer, anti-oxidant, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory properties.
Common foods with rich polyphenol content include fruits especially dark berries, vegetables, seeds such as flaxseed, nuts (e.g. chestnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, almonds, walnuts), olives and extra-virgin olive oil, vegetables, tea, cocoa products, wine, spices (e.g. cloves, curry powder, ginger, cumin, cinnamon, circumin), dried herbs (e.g. peppermints, oregnao, thyme, basil, parsley), green tea, black tea.
Investing in the health of your gut microbiota, is an investment in your long-term health and vitality. By increasing your intake of plant-based foods, reducing your intake of refined and processed foods and investing in your self-care you will be promoting the growth of good bacteria that will make up your gut microbiota.