The trillions of microorganisms living inside your gut play a key role in your digestive health and the overall health of your body. These microorganisms or microbes are collectively known as the gut microbiota or gut microbiome. Changes in the microbial population of the gut are linked with conditions like anxiety, depression, obesity, asthma, and more. As such, it’s important to take measures to ensure a healthy gut microbiome for your well-being. This can be achieved with the help of superfoods for your gut.
If you are looking for additional support for gut health beyond your diet, learn more about Neuralli. Neuralli is the first gut-brain medical probiotic to balance “happy hormones” and support neurological health.
What Are Superfoods & How Do They Help Your Gut?
The gut microbiota needs a healthy environment to thrive so that it can provide the human body with optimum health benefits. Superfoods can help you attain that. The term ‘superfood’ was used coined as a marketing term in the late 20th century. It's typically used to describe foods that are especially high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that improve your health.
There is nothing inherently ‘super’ about these foods and there are no particular criteria that define a food to be a superfood. Rather, superfoods are considered to be powerhouses of nutrition. Superfoods specifically for your gut are prebiotics that nourish gut microbes and promote the growth of beneficial bacteria. Many of them contain prebiotics, which are non-digestible fibers present in foods like nuts, vegetables, fruits, and grains, and compounds like polyphenols.
Here’s a list of some common superfoods that you should include in your diet for a healthy digestive tract and gut microbiome.
Oats are a great source of fiber and offer a range of health benefits like a healthy gut, improved blood sugar, and reduced cholesterol. They are rich in resistant starch, which helps promote the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut. Oats also contain beta-glucan, a prebiotic fiber that can be fermented by good gut bacteria, allowing them to multiply.
Oats are some of the best prebiotic foods that help you stay fuller longer. They contain soluble fiber that dissolves in water and turns into a thick gel that slowly passes through your digestive tract. This slows down how quickly the food gets digested. The process also ensures that all the nutrients present in oats are absorbed fully. Oats have an amazing shelf life, and you can consume them as oatmeal, make a smoothie with them, or turn them into cookies.
Apples are a good source of prebiotic fiber called pectin and can help boost your gut microbiota. Gut bacteria digest pectin and convert it into short-chain fatty acids which can improve gut health.
Apples come in various flavors and colors, so you can choose whichever variety best suits your taste. They can also be prepared in several ways to reap their health benefits. The fruit can be consumed as it is, or you can make a meal out of it. You can put apple slices on top of your morning yogurt bowl, mash them into applesauce, or even cook the fruit to use as a topping.
Flax seeds are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and dietary fiber. When consumed on a regular basis, flaxseed can improve your gut health by boosting the amount of mucus produced in the gut. Mucus lines the insides of your gut and acts as a covering for the cells. It helps stool and liquids pass easily through your gut while also protecting your cells from external toxins.
Flaxseed can also help reduce obesity and gut inflammation. It contains both soluble and insoluble fiber. When you consume the insoluble fiber, you improve your bowel movements and prevent constipation.
The best way to use flax seeds is to soak them in water for as little as 10 minutes or as long as overnight. Soaking the seeds before consumption helps with the fast absorption of their nutrients. You can eat flax seeds by adding them to your yogurt, porridge, cereal, bread, smoothies, and cakes. You can also sprinkle ground flaxseeds into salads or add them to soups.
With ground flaxseed, be sure to track the expiration date. Ground flax has a shorter shelf life than whole flax and turns rancid after several months; if it is past expiration and has a sour smell, don’t use it.
Asparagus contains a prebiotic fiber called inulin which promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria such as Bifidobacterium species. These bacteria help digest fiber and complex carbohydrates that can’t be digested by the body on its own.
Asparagus is also extremely rich in nutritional content and contains vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B6, and calcium. You can eat the vegetable in different ways like roasted, boiled, steamed, stir-fried, or grilled.
5) Green plantains
Plantains look similar to bananas, but they are cooked before being eaten and aren’t as sweet as bananas. They are high in starch content that feeds the butyrate-producing microbes in the gut and turns into short-chain fatty acids. These fatty acids then help heal the gut lining and decrease inflammation.
Green plantains are a versatile food and can be eaten in different ways. The most common preparation for plantains is fried. You can also eat them boiled, grilled, steamed, and baked.
Yogurt is one of the most common superfoods for your gut. It is a fermented dairy product and a great probiotic source. Studies have shown that unsweetened or dietary yogurt tends to increase the microbial diversity in the gut. Live cultures of yogurt improve the gut flora which helps lowers the risk of ulcers and reduces the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease. This superfood also provides a good amount of lactic acid bacteria to the gastrointestinal tract. Lactic acid can provide relief from gut permeability and reduce potentially harmful enzymes produced by the resident gut bacteria.
7) Chicory root
Chicory root is a popular substitute for coffee and offers a range of health benefits. It has high fiber content and is also rich in nutrients that include potassium, calcium, phosphorus, and folate. It also contains inulin, a great source of prebiotic fiber, which helps prevent digestive problems and decreases constipation.
Chicory root is an amazing source of polyphenols that can help decrease the damage to your body cells linked with illness and aging. You can reap the benefits of the chicory root fiber by boiling the root to eat with a meal or buying a chicory root coffee substitute and having it as a hot beverage.
Onions are high in minerals and vitamins. Their high vitamin C content helps in collagen production, immune health, iron absorption, and tissue repair. Onions contain the prebiotics inulin and fructooligosaccharides that benefit the immune system and boost healthy bacteria in the gut.
The best thing about onions is you can eat them the way you like. You can make a fiber-rich salad with chopped onions, chickpeas, sprouts, and red peppers. Add cooked onions to other vegetables for a healthy and tasty side dish or spice up your guacamole with raw onions.
9) Oat Bran
Oat bran comes from the outer covering of oats. It has a high content of antioxidants and fibers that help activate the bowels and reduce constipation. Oat bran is rich in the prebiotic fiber beta-glucan which helps regulate blood sugar, lowers cholesterol, and boosts the immune system.
Oat bran does not have any flavor of its own, so it is added to other recipes to boost the fiber content. You can add it to your soups, breads, smoothies, and desserts.
Rye is a common prebiotic that can help improve gut health. It has more fiber content than wheat and contains prebiotic fibers called beta-glucan, fructan, and arabinoxylan. Fructan is known to increase Bifidobacteria, the good gut bacteria that support gut health and promote overall health by producing substances like short chain fatty acids, vitamins, and antimicrobial defenses. The high fiber content of rye boosts digestive health by helping prevent constipation.
You can eat rye as rye flakes by mixing them with your morning bowl of yogurt. Try recipes that substitute some wheat flour with rye flour for making baked goods like bread, muffins, and pancakes.
Adding in Superfoods for Gut Health
With so many options available, adding gut health superfoods to your diet is not a tough task. You don’t have to change your diet altogether, but rather, make a few healthier choices over the course of the day to experience health benefits in the long run.
Since superfoods for your gut contain a high amount of fiber, it is best to start incorporating them into your diet a bit at a time to help your body adjust gradually. Adding many high-fiber foods all at once can lead to gas or bloating.
You can also consider adding a probiotic supplement to boost your gut health. These supplements contain live active cultures with colony-forming units (CFUs) in the billions. Probiotic strains like Lactobacillus plantarum PS128 benefit not only gut health but also mental health by providing relief from symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression, and insomnia. You can find PS128 in the probiotic Neuralli from Bened Life.