You may not realize it, but within your gut there’s an entire ecosystem of bacteria that works together to help your body digest food and keep your gut happy and healthy. Your microbiome is made up of beneficial bacteria that do everything from aiding in digestion to boosting your immune system and influencing your mental health.
Researchers are still discovering all of the ways our microbiota (the bacteria that makes up your microbiome) affects the body’s processes. While there’s still a lot to discover, there’s one thing we know for sure: your microbiome is very important!
One of the best things you can do to help promote the diversity and health of your microbiome is make sure your diet is rich with probiotic and prebiotic foods. Prebiotic foods are foods that contain ingredients microbiota feed off of. Probiotic foods contain good bacteria that add more troops to your microbiome.
Fun fact: You can cultivate a new microbiota in just 24 hours by changing what you eat.
Here are 6 foods to add to your diet that will help promote good gut bacteria.
Bananas help keep your microbiome healthy and are a standard prescription for an upset stomach.
Cruciferous vegetables contain glucosinolates, which when broken down by your body’s microbes, release substances that reduce inflammation and reduce the risk of colon, liver, and stomach cancer. Glucosinolates also latch onto carcinogenic intruders and force them to leave your digestive system. These veggies are also high in fiber, which makes them the perfect food for your body and your microbiota! The most common cruciferous vegetables are broccoli, kale, cabbage and cauliflower.
Legumes help release short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) that strengthen your intestine cells and improve absorption of micronutrients. They also feed your gut flora and help regulate a healthy gut. If you eat fermented beans like lacto-fermented lentils, chickpea, or miso, it’s a bonus! Fermentation adds more probiotic bugs to your gut flora.
Polenta is a complex carbohydrate made from coarsely ground cornmeal. It’s packed with insoluble fiber, which ferments in the colon and cultivates multiple strands of gut flora.
Cultured Dairy Products
Cultured dairy products are loaded with cultures of good bacteria. Adding this to your diet is a great way to increase the number of probiotics in your gut. Cultured dairy products include: yogurt, kefir, and buttermilk.
Fermented foods are perhaps the mother of all foods when it comes to probiotics. Eating fermented foods directly inoculates your gut with healthy microorganisms. Not only will you add to the colony of good bacteria (thus crowding out the bad bacteria), you will improve your body’s absorption of minerals. Fermented foods include sauerkraut, fermented vegetables, miso paste, and kimchi. For more on fermented foods, check out this article: The Health Benefits of Fermented Foods.
If 90 percent of our cells are non human, and what we eat affects their function, then we really ARE what we eat! Taking in more of these foods will improve your gut bacteria and thus help with digestion.