Gut health is currently one of the hottest topics in nutrition and wellbeing with various products such as sauerkraut, probiotic containing yoghurt or fermented beverages such as komboucha claiming to be just what you need for gut health. While there is evidence to suggest that including these functional foods is warranted we have plenty of other simple nutrition advice to share when it comes to showing your gut some much needed love.
It is first important to understand why looking after your gut is important. We know that our gastrointestinal system, in particular your large intestine or colon, contains millions of live bacteria species that contribute to your individual gut flora. We are only just beginning to understand the role of these bacteria in overall health and so far we know that they have a role in autoimmune disease, immunity, mental health and of course digestion! Like all living organisms these bacteria need food to survive. Food for your gut bacteria are called prebiotics and are found in a variety of fibre containing foods including bananas, oats, onions, leeks and wheat bran.
As well as gut bacteria it is important that you keep your bowel motions soft and regular to avoid constipation. As well as including fibre containing foods such as fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and legumes it is also important to stay hydrated and perhaps increase your fluid intake. Here are some easy tips for increasing fibre in your diet:
- Keep skin on fruits and vegetables when possible. For example wash but do not peel kumara, potatoes, carrots and parsnip before adding to your favourite Sunday roast
- Include high fibre snack choices in your diet such as fresh fruit, wholegrain crackers or a handful of nuts
- Add canned lentils or beans to your favourite dishes. Lentils work well in any mince based dish (think nachos, cottage pie or bolognese) and canned mixed beans are delicious tossed through salads
- If baking for lunches add ½ wholemeal flour and ½ white flour. You can also select high fibre recipes such as a carrot cake, bran and berry muffins or homemade muesli bars!
In terms of upping your fluid intake:
- If you take any medications or supplements with a sip of water aim to have a whole glass at this time. You were making the time to drink any way!
- Keep a water glass in areas to remind you to drink such as the bathroom, kitchen bench, bedside table or your work desk
- Make water a little more exciting by adding lemon, lime or herbs such as mint or basil for a fresh flavour hit!
Written by Sara Widdowson, Dietician, Nutrition and Life