Our gut health is extremely important to our overall health. The gut is intricately connected to many of our bodies' inner workings: our skin, our brains, our immunity, our hormones, our digestive health…the list goes on.
The gut plays a vital role in the digestion of what we eat; the gastrointestinal tract reaches right from our mouths to the anus. Its function is to break down food into smaller pieces, absorb what our bodies need from what we eat and get rid of the waste that can’t be used by our bodies.1
Here, we will discuss the absolute best foods you can eat to improve and maintain your gut health.
High Fibre Foods and Gut Health
Foods high in fibre can help food move through your digestive tract properly, as fibre adds bulk and weight to your stool. Blackberries are exceptionally high in fibre - weighing in at 8 grams of fibre per 150-gram serving.2
Beans, broccoli, avocados, popcorn, potatoes and nuts are all other excellent sources of fibre you can add to your diet to improve gut health.5
Caffeine and Gut Health
You may be surprised to hear that caffeine can be seen as good for you, considering its bad wrap. However, caffeine stimulates the digestive tract movement, acting as a natural laxative that supports regularity in your bowel movements.
Caffeinated drinks can be an excellent tool for reducing bloating by helping the contents of the digestive system move through. Coffee, tea (including green tea, fruit tea etc.), energy drinks and any other drink containing caffeine can improve bowel regularity.3
Caffeine can also be found in foods. Cocoa Beans, chocolate, Kola Nuts, Guarana, and coffee or chocolate-infused foods such as ice cream all contain caffeine, too.13
It is crucial to keep in mind that too much caffeine can have an adverse effect on the body. It can be helpful in small doses, but too much caffeine can lead to anxiety. Studies have shown that over 5 cups of coffee daily can cause caffeine-induced anxiety attacks.4
Probiotic Foods and Gut Health
The number 1 source for our gut microbiome is probiotic foods. Our gut microbiome comprises microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, parasites and viruses, but mainly good and bad bacteria. The gut microbiome must be balanced for optimum health, which means balancing good and bad bacteria.
There are trillions of good bacteria in a healthy gut microbiome. When the gut lacks good bacteria, the bad bacteria have more room to multiply and cause upset. Good bacteria can fight off the bad bacteria when you have too many and keep you healthy.6
Probiotics add new species of good bacteria to the gut microbiome, which helps it to become more diverse, therefore, healthier. Probiotics can also feed the existing bacteria allowing them to thrive and multiply.
Yoghurt is a fantastic probiotic source - it is made from milk fermented by probiotics, including lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacteria.7
Kefir, a probiotic milk drink, is perhaps the best source of probiotics. Kefir grains are cultures of lactic acid bacteria and yeast, and Kefir is made by adding the kefir grains to milk.8
Saurekraut, a shredded cabbage that lactic acid bacteria have fermented, is a really easy probiotic food to add to your diet.8 It can be consumed as a condiment, within foods, eaten on its own, as a topping or as a side dish.
It is also stored in an airtight container that lasts for a long time, so it is cost-effective to buy a jar and keep it in the cupboard for as long as you need.
Olive Oil and Gut Health
Olive oil contains fatty acids and polyphenols that are great for gut bacteria.9 Extra-virgin olive oil is the least processed form of olive oil, so it is the best for our bodies as it contains the most nutrients.
Studies have shown that olive oil can be beneficial for easing digestive issues such as indigestion and improving the pancreas’ function by lowering its requirement to produce digestive enzymes.9
Olive oil can be consumed in many different ways - as a salad dressing, drizzled over vegetables, drizzled over soup, used on bread as a butter substitute…the list goes on.
The most beneficial way to consume olive oil is to have a spoonful first thing in the morning, as that's when the gut microbes can best absorb it.10
Garlic and Gut Health
This will be good news for those fond of shoving 10 garlic cloves in a recipe that calls for 2! Garlic is a prebiotic food, meaning it is a great food source for the good bacteria in the gut.11 Garlic can boost the immune system by reducing inflammation in the gut due to its prebiotic qualities.
Garlic also contains Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Selenium, Fibre, Calcium, Copper, Potassium, Phosphorus, Iron and Vitamin B1, making it an incredibly beneficial health food. At only 4.5 calories per clove, you won’t be at risk of having too high a calorie intake by including more garlic in your diet. 12
The Bottom Line
No food is inherently bad for you; every food can be good in moderation. Even with a low nutritional value, if it brings you joy, that’s still good for you!
It can be useful to know which foods are the best for promoting good gut health, and these 5 can help you to have the gut health of your dreams.