17 Aug 10 Foods To Nourish Your Gut
Do you want to nourish your gut and improve your digestion?
Here are my favourite foods for supporting gut health. Diet is where it all begins, so start by filling your plate with nutrient dense whole-foods. It’s a much better way to focus on what you can have instead of focusing on what you can’t have. When you fill your plate with delicious, nourishing food you don’t have room to eat the bad stuff, and it won’t feel so hard to make the change.
Packed full of minerals and the all-important amino acid, Glutamine. Glutamine is used as fuel for our gut cells (called enterocytes). The body can make its own glutamine, but in times of stress or illness we require a higher amount so we have to get it through diet. This is a mainstay of treating for any ‘leaky gut issues’.
The Health Chef has a lovely bone broth recipe here
Green leafy veggies
If in doubt, always eat more greens! They are brimming with nutrients and are highly anti-inflammatory. Everyone needs to eat more of these. Many dark green leafy veg are also quite bitter, which is very important for gut health. The bitter taste stimulates digestive secretions like stomach acid, bile and enzymes, allowing us to break down the food we eat. Eat a variety of these, and aim for a handful at each meal: kale, rocket, spinach, parsley, coriander, watercress, silver beet, collard greens, dandelion greens and chicory.
This is such a soothing food for the tummy. If you’ve had a stomach bug and can’t tolerate many foods, then stewed apple is a lovely gentle option to start with. While raw apple can be a bit acidic on a sensitive tummy, stewing the fruit transforms it. Apples are high in pectin, a jelly-like substance that soothes a coats the intestines, helping to reduce inflammation. Pectin is also a much loved food for our gut bugs, along with the other fibre in apples. Apples also contain polyphenols (in the skin- don’t peel them!), which are phyto-nutrients that reduce inflammation. Choose organic apples as conventional apples are heavily sprayed with pesticides.
This includes sauerkraut, kim chi, yogurt, dairy kefir, coconut kefir, water kefir, kombucha, kvass, rejevelac, miso and tempeh. All of these foods are rich in probiotics and their by-products. Bacteria ferment these foods and through this process enhance their nutritional content. The helpful bugs in these foods will reduce gut inflammation and promote good microbial balance. Include fermented food in your diet every day!
Cold potatoes and green bananas
These seems like strange food suggestions don’t they? However, these foods are particularly high in resistant starch. This is a type of carbohydrate that we as humans do not digest, but instead is wonderful food for our microbes. Our microbes need food too otherwise they will die. This comes in the form of fibre and starches, and are known as ‘pre-biotics’. While taking probiotics is helpful, real changes to your digestive health won’t take place unless you support the microbes you have. Cooked and cooled starches, like potatoes, rice and whole-grain pasta are great options, as well as bananas that are more yellowy-green than overripe.
These nuts are also another great source of resistant starch. Apart from that, they are high in healthy, satiating fats, vitamin E, vitamin B6, copper, zinc and magnesium. Nuts are a great addition to a healthy diet, but try not to go overboard as they’re quite rich- aim for a handful as a snack or sprinkled on top of salad.
Grains and ‘pseudo-grains’ (like buckwheat) are an important source of dietary fibre, which is vital for good gut health. Fibre helps to keep things moving in our digestive tract (reduces constipation), and moves along built up waste so it can be eliminated. Fibre also helps manage cholesterol levels, by binding to the excess which is excreted along with it. Buckwheat is fabulous, as it is gluten-free and therefore easier on those with weakened digestive systems. It is also high in rutin and quercetin- plant flavonoids that reduce inflammation and maintain the strength and integrity of blood vessels.
Legumes, like whole-grains provide us with wonderful plant fibre that supports the gut. Beans, chickpeas and lentils are also a great source of plant protein and an excellent base for a vegetarian meal. Plants should make up the majority of our diet so aim to have a couple of vegetarian meals each week.
This food is a powerhouse of nutrition and antioxidants. It’s high in fibre, vitamin C, magnesium and compounds called glucosinolates which help to detoxify excess oestrogen. Studies have shown that regular consumption of broccoli favourably alters the composition of our gut bugs (read more here). It also contains cancer-fighting compounds- enough reasons to embrace this little tree?
Fish such as sardines, salmon and mackerel are high in omega-3 fatty acids. These are so important for the integrity of our gut lining, as they help reduce inflammation and promote the growth of beneficial bacteria. The modern western diet has become too high in omega-6 fatty acids, compared to omega-3s, and this imbalance promotes inflammation and overgrowth of certain types of bacteria- not good for our gut health at all. Aim to have 2-3 serves of fish per week.
Incorporating these 10 foods into your diet will make such a positive impact on your gut health. This is fantastic place to start and I encourage you to get creative with your cooking and enjoy wholesome and delicious food. See, health doesn’t have to boring after all 😉
About the Author
Emily Robertson is the naturopath and nutritionalist at Balanced Life Health Care. Emily has a bachelor of Naturopathy and has a passion for al things gut, skin and children’s health. To find out more about Emily click here or to make an appointment with Emily click here