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How to stay gut healthy this festive season

EMMA WILLIAMS

What you’re already doing to give yourself the gift of a healthy gut this silly season.

Diet has a huge influence on our gut microbiota composition. And our gut microbial profile will be different if we eat, for example, a diet based on plant foods or one rich in animal foods – due to corresponding changes in the bacteria involved in metabolising the nutrients in these foods (whether that be carbohydrates or protein). 

As Dietitians, we often focus on what you need to CHANGE in your diet to achieve optimum health and wellbeing.  The Christmas period is a time of year where we should all be relaxing and relishing in the delicious foods that embody the festive season.

These are a couple of the things you may already be doing to bolster your microbiota, so give yourself a pat on the back!

Incorporation of Probiotics and Prebiotics

Probiotics are ‘good’ bacteria or yeasts (like those found naturally in the gut) that, when taken in adequate amounts, can improve the balance of the gut microbiome.  Probiotics are found in everyday foods like yoghurt, milk drinks like kefir, and other fermented foods, like kombucha, kimchi, miso, tempeh, sauerkraut and sourdough bread.  

In contrast to probiotics, prebiotics are types of carbohydrates that reach the large bowel unchanged (that is, they are not digested or are only partly digested) and can, as a result, encourage beneficial microbes or ‘good’ bacteria to grow in the gut. Examples of prebiotic foods include cereal grains, vegetables (including asparagus, onions and cabbage), legumes (like chick peas and lentils), fruit (such as bananas and nectarines) and nuts. 

Are any of these foods what you would see in your Christmas spreads?  If not, they are easily incorporated.  Why not switch white bread for Sourdough (YUM!).  Or spice that cocktail up with some PERKii…you will thank yourself for it the next day too!  Use creamy yoghurt as a substitute for cream, or go a half-half mix of both.  Sprinkle some legumes over your salad for added taste, texture and fibre.

Consumption of Resistant starch

Resistant Starch is another component of food which has been linked with gut health. Resistant starch isn’t fully broken down in the small intestine, so reaches the colon intact – where it stimulates gut microbiota to produce short-chain fatty acids. One of these, butyrate, helps keep the lining of the colon healthy. Examples of foods containing resistant starch are firm bananas, lentils, peas, potatoes that have been cooked and cooled, cold pasta, and certain wholegrain products.  So if you’re having those cold potato or pasta salads on Christmas day, good work.  Popping some banana onto of those gorgeous Pav’s are also another way you can get a little extra resistant starch into you.

With all the festivities this time of year, give your gut a Christmas gift, in the form of happy and healthy bacteria!

 

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