Eating for a Healthy Gut
Now that autumn is officially here, it is important to think about how our diet and exercise play a role in keeping us healthy during the cold and flu seasons. As the old adage goes, prevention is the best cure, and I want to write this month about the importance of eating for a healthy gut in order to boost the immune system.
When we eat, our immune system gets involved as soon as the food enters our mouths. It starts with the antimicrobials in your saliva, then has to pass through the stomach's hydrochloric acid. Next, it has to make it past the proteins and chemical compounds further down the digestive chain that can sense and fight any harmful bacteria that may have made it past, until it reaches our own personal bacterial population which helps prevent harmful bacteria from entering our bloodstream or taking root in our small intestine and colon.
Since the foods we eat affect these bacteria and the complex compounds they release, prebiotics and probiotics deserve special mention for helping to prevent illness. Both are essential to gut health, which is essential to immunity. Probiotics are the bacteria themselves, and have been shown to help us recover faster once we get sick. Prebiotics are food for the bacteria, and help nourish our good microbial friends.
The best whole food sources of prebiotics are (aim for 2-3 servings/day):
Vegetables: asparagus, garlic, Jerusalem artichokes, leeks, and onions
Starches: barley, beans, oats, quinoa, rye, wheat, potatoes, and yams
Fruit: apples, bananas, berries, citrus, kiwi
Fats: flax seeds and chia seeds
And the best whole food sources of probiotics are (aim for 1-2 servings/day):
Dairy: yogurt, cheese, and kefir with live and active cultures
Fermented vegetables: pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi
Fermented soy: miso, tempeh
Miscellaneous: soy sauce, wine
Eating whole food sources of pre- and probiotics will greatly reduce your chances of getting sick this year, by keeping your gut happy and healthy.
Cheers to your gut health!
BHC Nutrition Coach