Foods for a healthy gut

Tip: Feed your gut foods that support digestive wellness, improve your mood and help you reap the full benefit of the nourishing foods you eat.

By the Chef Marshall O’Brien Group

Your gut does so much more than digest food. When your gut is imbalanced, you not only miss out on the nutrition your food offers, but your immunity and mood are compromised and you are more likely to develop allergies. Digestive complaints are common in the U.S. – irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) alone affects an estimated 10 to 15 percent of individuals. Eating foods that contain probiotics, prebiotics and spices to support digestive health can help relieve your tummy troubles, improve your mood, increase the nutrition you obtain from your food and help you feel your best.  

The Many Roles of Your Gut

You probably associate your gut with digesting and absorbing the food you eat, but you may not realize the other important roles your gut plays in your health:

  • Immunity – Approximately 70 percent of your immune system is located immediately beneath the surface of your gut lining – this makes sense when you consider your gut is exposed to more molecules and foreign organisms than any other organ.
  • Nervous System – With more nerve cells in your gut than in your spine and as many neurotransmitters as your brain, the gut is sometime referred to as the ‘second brain’.
  • Emotions and Stress – The expressions “trust your gut” and “she has guts” point to the role your gut plays in your feelings, intuition and mood. Stress, anger, anxiety, depression and other negative emotions have a profound impact on gut health.
  • Ecosystem for Friendly Bacteria – Your large intestine is its own ecosystem that houses your gut flora, which play critical roles in digestion and overall health.

Populate Your Gut with Probiotics

The average adult gut contains around 5 pounds of bacteria! These friendly flora ferment carbohydrates you would otherwise be unable to digest, producing important nutrients and gut-healing short-chain fatty acids in the process, help train and rebalance your immune system, reduce gut inflammation, and help prevent allergies and pathogenic microbes from flourishing. Probiotic foods are especially important when you experience diarrhea or after a course of antibiotics. These probiotic-rich foods contain strains of friendly-bacteria that populate your gut and support digestive wellness:

  • Cultured dairy products (yogurt, kefir, cottage cheese, buttermilk)
  • Fermented beverages, like kombucha
  • Fermented vegetables, like sauerkraut, beets, green beans
  • Kimchi
  • Miso
  • Tempeh

Feed Your Friendly Flora with Prebiotics

Prebiotic foods are high in a type of fiber that passes through your gastrointestinal tract undigested and feeds your friendly gut bacteria, stimulating their growth and activity. A diet rich in prebiotic fiber helps you cultivate a healthy population of friendly bacteria in your gut and prevents the growth of unhealthy bacteria. Feed your friendly flora regularly with these prebiotic foods:

  • Almonds
  • Asparagus
  • Bananas
  • Barley
  • Beans and Lentils
  • Cashews
  • Chickpeas
  • Endive
  • Garlic
  • Greens – beet, mustard, turnip
  • Jicama
  • Kiwifruit
  • Leeks
  • Oats
  • Onions
  • Whole wheat

Soothe Your Gut with Spices

Certain spices help soothe your gut by facilitating digestion. These spices have been used for centuries to ease digestion and soothe your gut:

  • Cardamom
  • Cinnamon
  • Coriander seeds
  • Cumin
  • Fennel
  • Fenugreek
  • Gingerroot
  • Peppermint

Eat Your Way to A Healthy Gut

No matter how nutritious your diet, you can only reap its benefits when you are digesting and absorbing properly. Load your diet with high fiber fruits and vegetables, include plenty of prebiotic and probiotic foods, and avoid added sugars, which feed ‘bad’ bacteria and foster imbalance in your gut. Chef Marshall’s Curried Green Lentil Soup incorporates digestion-promoting spices and is loaded with prebiotic ingredients. Add a dollop of yogurt for a delicious, gut-soothing feast! When you eat for a healthy gut you can fully reap the nourishment from the foods you eat.

You will love the way you feel!

Chef Marshall O’BrienThe Chef Marshall O’Brien Group is a dedicated assembly of professionals based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, committed to the goal of using nutrition to get kids and families to lead happier, healthier lives.