5 Steps to Boost Your Gut Health

Gut health has taken the spotlight as a crucial part of our overall wellness, and there’s no doubt that it influences everything from digestion to our immune function. Our gut, often referred to as the body’s “second brain,” is home to a complex community of microorganisms collectively known as the gut microbiota, which predominantly live in our large intestine.

As it can have a significant impact on our overall health, it’s important to support and look after our gut. So, with that in mind, here are 5 evidence-based nutritional strategies to enhance your gut health without overwhelming nutritional changes!

Embrace Fermented Foods:

Fermented foods are full of live bacteria which promotes a healthy gut microbiome. While more familiar foods like kimchi and kefir are popular, other less well-known choices such as miso also provide beneficial microbes. Incorporating these into your diet, such as adding a tablespoon of yoghurt kefir to your morning porridge or smoothie, including sauerkraut in sandwiches and salads, or swapping your fizzy drink for a kombucha, you can diversify your gut microbiota and work towards supporting overall gut health.

Harness the Power of Polyphenols:

Polyphenols, found in colourful fruits, vegetables, and drinks such as green tea and red wine (!), display antioxidant properties and help to stimulate the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. By including a variety of polyphenol-rich foods into your diet, such as blueberries, strawberries and raspberries, spinach, beetroot, kale, and dark chocolate, you can support gut health while tackling oxidative stress – something that is connected to various diseases.

Cultivate Dietary Diversity:

Aim for a varied range of plant-based foods, as recommended by research which emphasises the importance of consuming 30 or more varieties per week. This doesn’t mean following a strict plant-based diet but rather encourages us to focus on eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds into meals (herbs and spices all count towards the 30 points per week too!). Experiment with colourful salads, wholegrain bowls, and smoothie blends to work towards a diet full of diversity and in turn, a thriving gut microbiome.

Optimise Fibre Intake:

Dietary fibre is found mainly in fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, and legumes, and provides fuel for our good gut bacteria to help it to grow and thrive. Not only does fibre help with our gut health, but it helps move food through the gut, maintain a healthy bodyweight and has been associated with reduced risk of some diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and bowel cancer.

In the UK, Government guidelines recommend aiming for 30g of dietary fibre daily for a balanced diet, but at present most adults are consuming much less than this target.

When trying to increase your fibre intake, you may encounter digestive discomfort especially for those suffering with gastrointestinal issues such as IBS. Therefore, it’s important to gradually increase fibre intake and ensure good hydration – aim for 8 cups (or 2 litres) of water per day.

Top tips to increase fibre intake:

  • Choose a high-fibre breakfast cereal – wholegrain cereals like wholewheat biscuit cereal, no added sugar muesli, bran flakes or porridge. Try adding fresh fruit, dried fruit, seeds and/or nuts to your cereal or yogurt for an extra fibre boost.
  • Switch to wholemeal or seeded wholegrain breads – and if you really love white bread – start with trying options that combine white and wholemeal flours.
  • Include other wholegrains – wholewheat pasta, bulgur wheat or brown rice are all great ways to up the fibre.
  • Leave the skin on potatoes, fruit, and vegetables – make sure to wash before eating, the skins are where a lot of the fibre is!
  • Snack on fibre-rice foods – such as fruit, vegetable sticks and hummus, rye crackers, oatcakes, or unsalted nuts.

Practice Mindful Eating:

Most of us live busy and relatively stressful lives, which has seen a shift in the way we are eating throughout the week. Trying to incorporate more mindful eating opportunities helps to encourage a better awareness of how much food we are eating and create a positive gut-brain connection while also reducing stress-induced gut symptoms. By really savouring each bite, reducing distractions such as sitting in front of the TV or a laptop, and eating slowly, you can enhance digestion and overall gut health.

Summary

Improving your gut health doesn’t need to involve a complete overhaul of your diet, and starting by implementing new habits little by little will mean that they are more likely to become habitual and sustainable for your long-term health.

Even in small steps, you can significantly benefit you gut health, whether it’s including fermented foods into meals, prioritising a more diverse range of plant-based foods into your diet, or being more present and mindful when eating, each tool plays a key role in nurturing a healthy gut microbiome.

Author: Grace Stone

Instagram – @gracethenutritionist

Website – www.gracestonenutrition.co.uk

About the author : Usman

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