How to Increase Your Gut Health: Microbiota 101 What to Avoid & What to Eat

As we know from answering the question of what is the human microbiome, our gut microbiota is an integral part of our life and wellbeing. A balanced microbiota can improve mental wellbeing, creating chemicals that provide good mood, while decreasing anxiety and depression. The gut microbiota is also responsible for immune health and plays a role in the development of muscles and skin.

A bunch of different vegetables in bowls which can increase gut microbiota health
We should be eating a rainbow on our platessource

These trillions of organisms living in balance are key for the health of our metabolism and physical health, but with so many options out there, how do we know what to avoid and what to consume? Let’s break down the best and worst foods of all time for all your gut health needs!

What Foods to Eat to Increase Microbiota Health

Here are the top three foods to consume to help your microbiota flourish!

1. Prebiotics

Ok Jess, but what are prebiotics?

Prebiotics are fibrous substances found in many vegetables, such as artichoke, garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, and root vegetables like jicama and yacon.

It is also plentiful in some fruits, like apples and bananas, and in oats, flaxseeds, nuts, and wheat bran. Basically, if it has natural fiber, it can have great benefits to your gut health!

2. Probiotics

Probiotics, as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), are living microorganisms that promote health benefits to the body.

When you eat enough, you can help balance the bacterial flora of your body, therefore improving immune health and physical health! These foods include fresh yogurt, as long as you look for the phrase live culture on the package (think, Activa).

Other foods include fermented nutrients such as kimchi, sauerkraut, and fermented drinks like kombucha, or milk and water kefir.

3. Resistant Starch

Resistant starch is another great way to nourish gut health! It acts similarly to fiber and can be found naturally in some foods, or made through cooking methods.

Legumes, such as lentils, beans, and peas, are high in this substance. Potatoes that have been cooked and left to cool have resistant starch, so make sure to cook, cool, reheat, and consume your potatoes!

What Food to Avoid to Balance Microbiota Health?

This part is simple, here’s a list of foods that disrupt or reduce gut health.

1. Processed Foods

Anything highly processed can shift the balance of your gut negatively or reduce bacterial gut flora. This is due to added sugars, hydrogenated oils, preservatives, and additives in these foods.

Added sugars, in particular, lead to sugar cravings and an imbalanced intestinal flora. Studies have found that added fiber, for example in cereals, is not the same as fiber naturally found in vegetables or whole grains.

2. Alcohol

Alcohol tends to reduce gut health but try not to worry too much! Red wine has been found to increase good bacteria. However, if you do tend to grab the whisky or gin, make sure it is in moderation.

3. Antibiotics

Ok, it’s not a food but I thought it should be noted.

Antibiotics are an important medical tool to treat infection and disease, but they don’t discriminate. They will eliminate bad and good bacteria. This is the case for every antibiotic treatment and a decrease in good bacteria tends to lead to an increase in bad bacteria.

Ensure to consume this on a need-to basis!

The Takeaway

There are many ways to increase our gut health, especially with the aid of fibrous foods, fermented foods, and fermented drinks. All in all, we want a great variety of whole foods on our plates to help our gut microbiota flourish.

When we know what to eat and what to avoid, and what nutrition to consume, we can make better choices that will impact us in amazing ways.

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