Every single one of us has a unique jungle of good bacteria in our guts, called our gut's microbiome, which is responsible for breaking down and processing our food, regulating our immune system and producing certain vitamins such as vitamin B vitamins B12, thiamine and riboflavin, and Vitamin K. There is also evidence suggesting the health of our microbiome has an affect on the production of serotonin (happy chemical) in our guts too! There are many different strains of good bacteria which can be found in the foods that we eat, so there is no need for a supplement (yay!) and each type of bacteria then requires food in order for it to flourish.
Now that you understand the importance of the good bacteria in our gut, here are some ideas for foods you can buy next time you go to the supermarket!
1. Soluble Fibre
Fibre is a very important part of a healthy diet and although it does not provide our bodies with energy like other macronutrients (Carbohydrates, proteins, fats), it plays a huge role in keeping our digestive system happy. Fibre helps to maintain healthy bowel movements, provide food for our microbiome (good bacteria in our gut) and it keeps us fuller for longer! Fibre is also great for heart health (can help reduce cholesterol) and blood sugar control.
Soluble Fibre is highly fermentable and soaks up fluid in our gut to form a gel type consistency. Soluble fibre helps to keep the stool soft and easy to pass while soaking up and binding excess cholesterol and removing it from the body (great for heart health). It also helps with helps with blood sugar control and satiety (helpful for weight management)!
Easy sources of soluble fibre include:
- The flesh fruit and vegetables
- Nuts and seeds - to save on money, look at buying these in bulk and storing them in airtight coffee jars!
- Legumes (beans, chickpeas, lentils)
2. Insoluble Fibre
Insoluble fibre is unable to be broken down by the body and therefore provides most of the mass and gives form to the stool. It also helps keep the digestive tract moving and regular.
Easy sources of insoluble fibre include:
- Wholegrains (found in high quality bread - eg. multigrain, rye, wholemeal)
- Skins of Vegetables
3. Resistant Starch
Resistant starch is a type of fibre that is unable to be digested in our gut, but instead travels intact to our colon where it is fermented with the help of our gut bugs! Not only does resistant starch provide food for the healthy bacteria in our gut but the fermentation process produces short-chain fatty acids which are really beneficial for our overall health.
Easy sources of resistant starch include:
- Cooked and cooled potatoes
- Cooked and cooled rice and pasta
- Unripe bananas
Probiotics are the ‘live cultures’ which make up the colonies of good bacteria in our gut. There are hundreds of millions of these bacteria living in our digestive system and they are not always the same – there are lots of different species, or strains, as we call them! Easily accessible (and delicious!) foods that contain probiotics include:
- Yoghurt (with live cultures)
- Fermented milk drinks
Note: it's a common misconception that probiotics are all expensive. The following are prices for some examples of probiotics at local supermarkets:
- Sauerkraut – Sandhurst 500g - $3.30 ($0.66/100g)
- Kimchi – Bryne Co 460g - $4.00 ($0.87/100g)
- Activia Probiotic No added sugar yoghurt 4 pack - $3.75 ($0.94 per tub)
Prebiotics is what feeds the good bacteria that live in our gut and intestines and are generally found in sources of fibre such as:
- Fruits & vegetables - variety is key because each type of fruit and vegetable holds a distinct fibre profile which is the preference of a certain strain of good bacteria.
- nuts & seeds
Abby Smith | Dietitian
Vital Health Roma