How Natural Foods Can Support Your Gut for Your Healthiest Life
Healthy eating can take on a variety of forms: consuming fresh, organic vegetables and fruits every day, shopping only around the perimeter of your grocery store, frequenting the farmer’s market for seasonal inspiration, devouring homemade superfood delicacies, or simply avoiding processed foods with scary-high levels of sugar, pesticides, unnecessary additives, and other toxins.
Regardless of the shape it takes, the conclusion is always the same: Eating foods grown from the earth is the simplest thing you can do to reap enormous health benefits. So this month, as we approach some of the most decadent holidays of the year, we’re making the commitment to treat ourselves with natural, nourishing foods.
Interestingly enough, our health and well-being prospers when we eat like our ancestors, whose diets focused primarily on whole plants that were grown in nutrient-rich soil. And, the animals they consumed were wild, roaming creatures free of antibiotics, medications, and added hormones. Our bodies and gut flora evolved over millions of years based on this fibrous, unrefined, whole-food diet.
We know that a clean, green, fiber-filled diet can skyrocket the overall quality of your health, but just how, you might wonder? Here’s an in-depth look at how noshing on plants grown from the ground — especially prebiotics and probiotic-rich foods — can support your microbial and overall wellness.
Why Diet Is Such an Important Factor for Your Gut Health
The state of your gut microbiome affects virtually every aspect of your mind and body, from your digestion and blood sugar levels to your immune system, mental well-being, and amount of energy you exert on a daily basis. Simply put: supporting your gut’s health is non-negotiable if you’re looking to experience vitality and strength, inside and out.
What you might not know is that your microbes are actually under attack from our Western dietary habits (lots of processed food and sugar) and other lifestyle factors. In addition to diet, things like aging, stress, the presence of antibiotics in our foods and as medicine, chemicals in our hygiene products, and toxins in the environment can throw a major wrench in your plans for a healthy gut environment because they tend to indiscriminately wipe out any and all bacteria—including the friendly flora meant to keep you thriving.
The good news is it’s incredibly easy to care for your gut (not to mention how quickly you can do so) by eating real, whole foods from the earth. It may be obvious that probiotic-rich foods can support your microbiome, but even the probiotics in your body need to be “fed” in order to thrive, and that’s where prebiotics come into play.
What Are Prebiotics?
Prebiotics are a natural soluble fiber utilized predominantly by our gut’s good bacteria as fuel. In fact, we can’t even digest prebiotics—their sole purpose is to feed our gut bacteria (which outnumber our human cells by a factor of 10:1).
Prebiotics are like fertilizer when it comes to the garden of gut bugs in your digestive tract, and they help the gut maintain high quantities of friendly flora such as Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria, two of the most widely researched and beneficial probiotic families known to us today.2
Examples of prebiotic-rich foods include oats, bananas, pumpkin seeds, and thousands of others. (To help you channel your inner chef as you prepare for prebiotic-infused recipes, we’ve included a more extensive list of prebiotic foods at the end of this article.)
How Do Prebiotics Help Support Your Gut?
Prebiotics help good bacteria thrive and stay alive.3 Thanks to their role in nourishing the good bacteria meant to support all of our bodily functions, prebiotics are considered vital for a happy gut, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Researchers have indicated that high prebiotic intake is associated with positive benefits for the heart and brain as well as blood sugar, stress, hormones, and cholesterol levels.4
What’s more, because prebiotics help good bacteria flourish, these mighty fibers are crucial for supporting the absorption of nutrients you consume through natural foods. That’s because if you maintain a plethora of friendly flora, you make it easier for your gut to draw in and process the vitamins, minerals, and other health-promoting substances from the healthy foods you eat and even from the supplements you take.
When your gut is teeming with beneficial bacteria and you’re getting the most from the healthy foods you eat, it becomes easier to keep your immune system strong, energy levels high, and your skin looking radiant.
Plus, thanks to the gut-brain connection, the food you eat has a direct impact on how you think and feel—all the more reason to consciously choose foods that work on behalf of your overall health.
How to Maintain Your Gut Health with Natural Sources of Probiotics and Prebiotics
Due to our modern culture filled with stress, lack of sleep, contaminated environments, and junk food, it’s important to support our bodies with gut-healthy foods that come straight from the ground.
Here are some quick tips on how to get the most from the goodness of nature:
Start by taking a premium probiotic supplement to encourage the growth of friendly flora that colonize your gut. A supplement that offers protection to the microbes is a smart way to ensure you deliver a consistent supply of living good bacteria to your digestive tract, especially because stomach acids make it pretty difficult for live organisms to survive on their way to the gut.
A multi-strain probiotic formula like Hyperbiotics PRO-15 is designed to give you ongoing, daily support to help you maintain digestive and immune health, as well as proper nutrient absorption.
Choose whole, fibrous foods, including those with probiotics and prebiotics. If only if it was as easy as taking a single supplement to reap all the extraordinary benefits of a diverse and well-balanced gut! But fear not, incorporating probiotics and prebiotics into your diet is simpler than it sounds. Here are some ideas to get you started:
• Prebiotic-rich foods:
For more ideas on how to easily incorporate these foods into your family’s meals, download our free ebook, The Hyperbiotics Cookbook. In addition to including plenty of the above foods in your diet, you can introduce even more prebiotic fiber into your diet to nourish your friendly flora with an organic, food-based prebiotic fiber supplement that you can easily add to smoothies and soft foods.References:
1. Graf, D., Di Cagno, R., Fåk, F., Flint, H. J., Nyman, M., Saarela, M., & Watzl, B. (2015). Contribution of diet to the composition of the human gut microbiota. Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease, 26, http://doi.org/10.3402/mehd.v26.26164
2. Cummings, J. H., & Macfarlane, G. T. (2002). Gastrointestinal effects of prebiotics. The British Journal of Nutrition, S145-51.
3. Slavin, J. (2013). Fiber and Prebiotics: Mechanisms and Health Benefits. Nutrients, 5(4), 1417–1435. http://doi.org/10.3390/nu5041417
4. Younis, K., Ahmad, S., Jahan, K. (2015) Health Benefits and Application of Prebiotics in Foods. Journal of Food Processing and Technology 6:433. doi: 10.4172/2157-7110.1000433
Sarah Ban is a Los Angeles-based writer and editor who specializes in health, wellness, and beauty.