“Eat” Series Part 4: How Your Gut Health Determines Your Total Health - Women's Health Conversations

“Eat” Series Part 4: How Your Gut Health Determines Your Total Health

“Eat” Series Part 4: How Your Gut Health Determines Your Total Health

Right now, you’re playing host to tens of trillions of microorganisms living in your gut. Don’t worry! This is good. In fact, you want to do all you can to keep those helpful little critters happy and healthy. These bacteria are an integral part of good overall health, helping to keep the digestive system running smoothly, boosting immune function and helping to regulate metabolism.

It’s important to take care of the health of your gut. Here’s why it matters and suggestions of how you can keep your gut bacteria happy.

Why Your Gut Health Matters

Why Your Gut Health Matters

Your gut is populated with tens of trillions of microorganisms. That’s 10 times more cells than make up the rest of your body! You’re host to these microorganisms, but those tiny bacteria are a huge benefit to your health. Keeping them healthy and happy is paramount. A growing body of research regarding gut microbiota suggests that maintaining a healthy microscopic universe in our gut plays a critical role in overall health.

Poor gut health can impact everything from obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune disease and even certain cancers. If you want to keep your microbiota rich and thriving, adjusting your diet can help. In a study of 153 men and women, those who adhered most closely to a plant-based Mediterranean diet rich in whole grains were found to have higher levels of the healthy short-chain fatty acids that gut bacteria produce. Introducing foods rich in prebiotics and probiotics to your diet can help you achieve this optimal balance.

Prebiotics

Prebiotics

Prebiotics feed those beneficial bacteria that inhabit your gut. They’re fibers for the bacteria to nosh on. Your body doesn’t fully digest them, but they stick around in your large intestine for the healthy bacteria to feed on. This type of fiber is found naturally in whole foods like vegetables, oats and soybeans. All prebiotics are fiber, but not all fiber is considered prebiotic, so it’s important to include types of fiber in your diet that cover both your general fiber and prebiotic needs. The Younger In 8 Weeks program described in the book provides a plan to make sure all of your bases are covered.

Probiotics

Probiotics are the bacteria themselves. These species can be found in certain foods and are capable of balancing the healthy population of bacteria in your body. Foods rich in probiotics often start off as whole foods, but are transformed into probiotic masterpieces with the help of microorganisms. The food’s sugars and carbs are converted into compounds like lactic acid, which is what gives sauerkraut and pickles their tart taste.

Yogurt, tempeh and other fermented foods are also strong sources of probiotics. The fermentation process turns foods into probiotic powerhouses. They can boost the levels of good bacteria in your digestive tract, which improves the health and balance of your body’s collective bacterial community.

How To Eat For Gut Health

How To Eat For Gut Health

To take care of your gut, you’ve got to eat with your microbiota in mind. Choose foods rich in probiotics that can rebalance your gut bacteria and prebiotics that can provide them with something to munch on. There are 10 prebiotic powerhouse foods that are easy to work into a healthy, plant-based diet that can give your gut what it needs to thrive. Almonds, leeks, oats, asparagus, legumes (like peas, beans and lentils), onions, garlic, kiwifruit, leafy greens and mushrooms. All of these are delicious and all of these fit right into the Younger In 8 Weeks diet plan.

To get your probiotics, look no further than fermentation. Fermented foods are full of the stuff, plus other health benefits. Fermented vegetables, like kimchi, sauerkraut, beets and traditional cured Greek olives are simple ways to get your fermented fix. There are those that swear by apple cider vinegar, kefirs and kombuchas to aid in gut health. But the simplest way to get the probiotics your body needs is probably yogurt. Plus, plain yogurt is super nutritious, packing in protein, B vitamins and minerals. It can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. It’s been shown to promote weight loss. It really is a superfood.