When it comes to functioning and feeling your best - both mentally and physically - the most important place to start is with your gut! Put simply, 'the gut is where it's at' - when it comes to how well we function on a day to day basis. The reason why our gut health plays such a central role in influencing our overall health, is because it's home to trillions and trillions of microbes that outnumber your cells by a ratio of 10:1, which means the human body is essentially 90% bacteria! These microbes makeup what's known as your body's microbiome - which is your body's inbuilt 'eco-system'.
Like any ecosystem on earth, the state of your microbiome, plays a critical role in determining the function of all the cells within your body - whether it's your skin cells, brain cells, your hormones, or immune cells.
So no matter what goal you're looking to achieve with your health - whether it's improving your skin, losing weight, or improving your mood and cognitive function, you'll be running around in circles, or achieving short lived results at best, unless you target the course of the problem, which, you guessed it - nine times out of ten, lies in your gut!
So the next question on your lips may be, 'how do I improve my gut health?" Well, there are some simple things you can do, each and every day, to help the friendly microbes living within your gut to thrive, whilst keeping the 'bad guys' at bay. It's this process of balancing the 'good' vs the 'bad' microbes within your gut microbiome, that is the key to achieving a healthy gut, and that means a healthy body and mind.
Here are my 6 top foods for achieving a healthy gut:
1. Garlic - garlic breath will do more than send the guys, or gals running, it will also send any bad bugs in your gut packing, thanks to its powerful anti bacterial and anti viral properties. One of the easiest and most delicious ways to incorporate raw garlic into your diet regularly, is by eating fresh homemade pesto! Drizzle a little over seafood, chicken, salads, or simply eat as a dip. Oh, and did I mention if you make your pesto with fresh coriander/ cilantro, it doubles as a potent heavy metal chelator! You'll find a delicious recipe for dairy free pesto in my book, Love Your Gut.
2. Bone Broth - is natures natural gut healer, thanks to the naturally occurring collagen - which composes about 30 percent of the protein in your entire body! Collagen is the main component of connective tissues like ligaments, tendons, cartilage, bone, and skin. But the beauty of collagen found in foods such as bone broth, stretches well beyond maintaining youthful looking skin and healthy joints. Collagen also aids in the repair and maintenance of your intestinal, or gut wall, thanks to being a rich source of essential amino acid like, glycine, proline and glutamine. It's also packed with minerals, including calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and of course zinc - another important gut repair tool! I've included a simple recipe for delicious bone broth you can use for the base of any soup in my book, Love Your Gut
Bone broth can also help to reduce the overgrowth of harmful microbes and aid in the digestion of fats and protein, by stimulating stomach acid - something many of us don't produce enough of, thanks to eating too quickly, eating on the run, or drinking too much water with meals.
3. Vegetable Fibre - whilst all vegetables can largely be classified as healthy, some have the added benefit of containing particular types of fibre that provide 'food' for the beneficial bacteria within your gut to help them grow - often referred to as a 'prebiotic'. Vegetables such as, Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, onion and leeks in particular, contain a source of insoluble fibre, known as inulin. Inulin fibre is particularly good for gut health, because it not only boosts digestion, but it also helps to improve bowel function, curb appetite, and maintain a healthy heart.
4. Fermented foods - well before the days of refrigerators and artificial preservatives, traditional cultures used to preserve their food to extend the shelf life for months, even years, through a natural process known as fermentation. Think, sauerkraut in Germany, Kim Chi in Korea, natto in Japan, Kombucha in China, kefir in Russia, yoghurt in Turkey, and apple cider vinegar in Europe. Pretty well every traditional culture had their own fermented foods, and this is one of the main reasons scientists believe they didn't suffer from the types of chronic illnesses that afflicts modern society. What came naturally to these cultures, we now need to make a conscious effort to incorporate into our daily diet, in order to boost and balance the strains of beneficial bacteria within our gut. You'll find simple recipes for several fermented foods, including kefir, coconut yogurt, pickled and fermented vegetables, in my book, Love Your Gut.
5. Apples - like vegetables, certain fruits contain particularly beneficial types of fibre for helping to maintain a healthy gut. Apples contain a type of fibre known as pectin, which increases butyrate levels in your stomach - a short-chain fatty acid that feeds the beneficial gut bacteria, whilst reducing harmful strains of bacteria.
6. Raw Cacao - better known as chocolate - is rich in flavanols -which has powerful prebiotic benefits - to aid the growth of healthy gut bacteria. But before you go gorging on the Cadbury, hold your horses, because its' not just any old chocolate that's beneficial for your gut! Only chocolate containing a high content of quality raw cacao, will be provide the beneficial effects. Eating foods that incorporate either raw cacao nibs, (cacao beans that have been chopped into smaller pieces), or raw cacao powder, is the best way to tell if you're getting the real deal, where as common varieties of chocolate made from cocoa, "hello Mr Cadbury", are going to be provide much benefit for your gut health at all. This is because, cocoa found in common chocolate has been processed with high heat, damaging much of the beneficial nutrients, and because it's combined with lots of sugar - arch enemy number one to your good bugs - it will actually harm your gut flora whilst feeding the hostile strains of bacteria and fungi within your gut.