Gut health foods: Six foods to help nourish your gut microbiome including dark chocolate

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A healthy gut is key for a healthy, optimally functioning body. So, how can we nourish our gut microbiome so that our good bacteria can flourish and thrive? Rob Thorp, Nutritionist and Founder of Vite Naturals has recommended what foods to incorporate into your diet.

1. Garlic

Garlic has antibacterial and antifungal properties because it is naturally high in inulin, a type of non-digestible carbohydrate that feeds the good bacteria in your digestive system and keeps the less beneficial bacteria under control, making it a prebiotic, explained Rob.

He continued: “It is used as a flavouring for savoury dishes such as curries, soups and sauces, however, to enjoy the maximum goodness from it, it should be eaten raw.

“Try including raw, crushed garlic with creamy avocado and diced red onion to form a guacamole dip, or with diced tomatoes to make the popular Italian starter, bruschetta.”

2. Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate is rich in polyphenols, a compound found in plant foods which has antioxidant properties.

“To put it simply,” said Rob, “foods with antioxidant properties can fight the negative effects of ‘free radicals’, which can cause stress-related cell damage to the body.

“Polyphenols are also considered a prebiotic as they feed the good bacteria in your gut. This is because only a small percentage of polyphenols can be absorbed in the small intestine, so the rest make there way down to the large intestine or colon where they act as food for the gut microbes, supporting the beneficial microbes to recalibrate balance, whilst keeping the less helpful ones under control.

“But before you start eating chocolate like there is no tomorrow, remember that not all brands are created equal.  The cocoa found in chocolate belongs to a category of polyphenols called flavanols, which are more abundant in dark chocolate than milk chocolate.

“So, when making your next chocolate purchase, look out for the all-important cocoa content to reap the health benefits – anything over 75% is what you should be aiming for. For an added gut boost, try dark chocolate and nut flavoured Body Bars from Vite Naturals (www.vite.co.uk), these tasty snack bars contain prebiotics, probiotics, and digestive enzymes to encourage optimal gut health and they can be used instead of traditional supplements.”

 

3. Raspberries

Most fruits are a great source of dietary fibre; however, raspberries take the lead with an impressive eight grams per cup, which is a third of our recommended daily intake.

Rob explained: “The bacteria in our guts feast on the fibre that comes from our diet, helping them to flourish and multiply so they can aid digestion and nutrient absorption.

“Fibre further supports good digestion by helping to regulate bowel movements, reducing the likelihood of constipation.

“Raspberries make a tasty addition to numerous meals and snacks, including yoghurt and shaved dark chocolate, porridge or overnight oats and breakfast smoothies.”

4. Caraway

Caraway seed is a unique spice which has long been used as a remedy for digestive complaints.

Rob said: “It has an earthy taste that is similar to fennel and coriander and is typically used in breads, pastries, curries, stews and warm teas.

“Although the cause for reducing digestive distress is unknown, caraway seed is thought to have antimicrobial properties that may reduce uncomfortable symptoms in the digestive tract, by helping to relax the cramping muscles in the intestines and preventing fermentation in the stomach.”

5. Fermented foods

Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kombucha, and kefir are a good source of naturally occurring probiotics.

Rob explained: “Historically, the fermentation process was used as a way of preserving foods and drinks long before the days of refrigeration. Not only does fermentation help enhance food preservation but eating fermented foods can also boost the number of beneficial bacteria found in the gut. They are also easier to digest since the fermentation process breaks down some of the sugars and starches.

“A large proportion of the immune system is housed in the gut, so consuming probiotic-rich foods can also help to support the gut lining as a natural barrier, making the immune system more robust.”

6. Pineapple

Pineapples are made up of fibre and water content, making them a great fruit for preventing constipation and promoting regularity and a healthy digestive tract, said Rob.

He added: “They are also rich in bromelain, a digestive enzyme which helps the body to break down proteins and reduce the inflammatory immune cells, called cytokines, that damage the digestive tract lining.”

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