Store Cupboard Staples That Are Good for Your Gut
Your body is home to around 40 trillion bacteria, most of which can be found in your gut. It stands to reason then, that eating well to maintain a healthy gut microbiota is one of the most important things you can do to maintain optimal overall health; a healthy gut will support everything from a strong immune system to your heart health, brain health and even your sleep patterns. Because many Western diets are high in sugar and fat (not the right ingredients for a healthy gut), it’s vital that our diet includes a range of food which better serve the diverse range of bacteria living there. The good news is that eating for good gut health isn’t as hard as you might think; most of what your gut’s bacteria needs to survive and thrive are store cupboard staples that are easy to come by and even easier to cook. Here’s the lowdown…
Most of us will probably have packets of miso soup languishing at the back of our cupboard, or perhaps a jar of it lurking in the fridge. Not only is it loaded with essential minerals and vitamins such as B vitamins, E, K and folic acid, it’s fermented which means it’s an excellent gut friendly food to consume often; in countries where miso is eaten regularly, the population tend to have better gut health and less evidence of bowel disease. When the soybeans, barley or rice is fermented to make miso, good bacteria are produced in the fermentation process and it’s these which are beneficial.
Whether you use them in your smoothies, morning porridge or to bake with, the humble oat is not only a store cupboard staple but a winner when it comes to good gut health. That’s because they’re full of both soluble and insoluble fibre, which is responsible for keeping us regular and feeling fuller for longer, and resistant starch, a prebiotic fibre which feeds your good bacteria as it makes its way to your large intestine.
Cans of beans
Legumes such as chickpeas, split peas, lentils and beans are a great source of fibre. While they can’t be broken down and digested by enzymes in the body, they can be digested by certain bacteria in your gut, which helps stimulate the growth of more healthy bacteria. Like oats, they’re rich in resistant starch which acts as a prebiotic for these bacteria, nourishing them and the microbiota in turn. A word of warning: legumes can cause inflammation in some people, due to the lectins in their skins which are hard to break down. Soaking legumes before you eat them ought to neutralise the lectins, making them much easier to eat.
Cheap, easy to find and even easier to cook, potatoes are a great food for the gut – specifically those that have been cooked and allowed to cool, a process which converts the starch into resistant starch and feeds the gut’s good bacteria.
An excellent source of dietary fibre, bananas contain a prebiotic known as fructo-oligosaccharide (FOS) which feeds the good bacteria and helps maintain a balanced and healthy microbiota. Once this resistant starch reaches the colon, it’s fermented by bacteria and anti-inflammatory bioactive compounds are released that further benefit gut health.
Most of us have a bag or two of nuts in our cupboards which is great news for our gut health – just make sure they’re not loaded with salt and flavourings. As well as containing dietary fibre, nuts contain polysaccharides, which provide a major source of energy for the bacteria in your gut. In addition, research has shown that eating nuts regularly for a few weeks can actually increase the population of healthy bacteria in the large intestine as well as providing an optimum environment for them to flourish.