Gut health is on everyone’s minds. And while kombucha, sauerkraut and probiotic products are on trend, more research supports the idea that the most powerful approach might be to better feed the beneficial bacteria we already harbour. Their meal choice? Fibre-packed plants.
Wholegrains. The wholegrain family includes quinoa, brown rice, barley, corn, and spelt among others. These foods contain a mix of fibres (soluble, insoluble, and resistant starch) that help to improve cholesterol reabsorption, manage blood sugar levels, promote regularity, and improve satiety. Additionally, some of the fibres ‘fermented’ by gut bacteria to produce short chain fatty acids (SCFA), which are believed to positively affect our immune system, reduce our risk of certain cancers, and subsequently alter the composition of intestinal flora. This fermentation process (AKA the ‘prebiotic effect) provides specific ingredients that stimulate the growth of ‘live’ probiotic bacteria – beneficial bugs that keep our gut in working order. For more information on wholegrain, visit the Grains and Legumes Nutrition Council.
Legumes (lentils, beans & chickpeas) Legumes also contain are unique type of fibre, known as resistant starch (or fermentable fibres). Eating foods rich in resistant starch feeds the good bugs, which helps maintain intestinal health and composition. Baked beans on toast, a bowl of minestrone soup with white beans, or lentils added to your Bolognese or sneak into ‘sausage’ rolls are a few easy ways of including more legumes in your diet.
Garlic. According to the Bowel Cancer Australia a garlic clove a day is one way to keep bowel cancer at bay. Garlic is part of the allium family of vegetables, and contains many compounds that are being studied for their anti-cancer effects. Lab studies have also shown that some of these chemicals are able to slow or stop the growth of tumours in the prostate, bladder, colon and stomach.
Broccoli. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and kale contain a group of substances known as glucosinolates. These are sulphur-containing chemicals that have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer benefits, and also act as antioxidants in the body reducing inflammation. Add some chopped florets to stir-fries, include them raw in salads or simply steam as a side dish with main meals.