There are trillions of microorganisms living in our body, mostly found in our gut. As part of our organism, we want these microorganisms to stay healthy and active. Diet is, in fact, one of the main factors to consider here. Today, we look at the best foods to eat and improve your gut health
What’s the Gut Microbiota?
The gut microbiota is the community of microorganisms inhabiting your digestive tract (source). As part of evolution, they first reached our gut a long time ago (very long). The symbiotic relationship between the host (us) and bacteria provides benefits to both organisms (source)
We give them a place to live, while they contribute to our metabolism and health. What I call a perfect relationship.
The gut microbiota reaches its peak on the colon, with a highest density of 1012 bacterias/g (study). In fact, it is here where the gut microbiota has more to say about our health.
From the moment we are born, we start to develop our own gut microbiota. The mode of delivery, breast feeding, and interaction with the environment set our first contact with the microorganisms around us (study)
Role of the Gut Microbiota in our Health
The gut microbiota, considered and "essential organ", has a lot to say about our health status (study).
As part of our intestine, the gut microbiota plays a central role in protecting our organism from pathogens and other threats (study). It "pushes out" the pathogens, and improves the permeability of the intestinal barrier (study)
The gut microbiota does play a role on your inmune system as well, modulating inflammation and the inmune response (study).
Not also that, but the gut microbiota also helps metabolizing compounds we are not able to metabolize. These are converted into other chemical species we can use for different functions in our organism (study).
Last (but not least), the gut microbiota modules the gut-brain axis. Considered our "second brain", the gut is reponsible for the production of neurotransmitters and neurochemicals (study). The gut microbiota, as part of our gut, plays a central role in the production of such(study)
Probiotics to Improve your Gut Health
The gut microbiota is subjected to a lot of external factors. Diet, physical activity, use of antibiotics... and the disturbance of the microorganisms in your gut can lead to several health issues (study).
Luckily, there are products available to improve your gut health. The so called probiotics are healthy microorganisms we ingest to improve the composition of our gut microbiota (source).
Considered probiotics we have supplements, or foods. In the case of supplements, you have available different types of microorganisms depending on your needs. However, the most popular ones (and the ones we know the most) are Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus (source)
In the case of foods, there's a list of foods, mostly fermented foods, that provide microorganisms as well.
Why do Foods Contain Microorganisms?
Microorganisms are responsible of the fermentation of foods (study). They use the sugars and other organic matter from foods to grow and survive. As they grow, their metabolism creates CO2 ,ethanol, or/and lactic acid.
They create the perfect environment for them to grow, as well as preserve the food for human consumption. When you eat the fermented food, you are also eating the microorganisms in there.
Fermented foods are totally safe. In fact, these microorganisms have shown to improve your gut microbiota and digestive system (study)
Best Foods to Improve your Gut Health
We've talked about probiotics as a way of improving your gut health. But also some foods naturally containing those probiotics.
There's a lot of different foods for your gut health. Depending on the culture, your location, or the season of the year, you'll be more accessible to ones or others. As a rule of thumb, all fermented foods are considered probiotics (study).
Fermented foods provide healthy microorganisms that improve the nutritional value of such foods, as well as neutralizes toxic compounds and antinutrients (study)
Fermenting vegetables has always been a great way of preserving foods. By a submerged fermentation, microorganisms are able to grow and start producing their carbon dioxide and ethanol.
Fermented foods acquire a sour funky taste, which you can use to spice up your plates and give it a punch.
You can pretty much ferment any vegetable. Carrots, cabbage, peppers, cauliflower, beets, radishes,... anything. In this video, Pro Home Cooks explains the general process of making fermented vegetables. Go check it out!!
Dairy products are the other big group of fermented foods. Through lactic fermentation, microorganisms coagulate milk to make the cheese curds and produce milk-derived products (study)
Cheese, yogurt, kefir, butter, cream,... all dairy products that have been fermented will act as probiotics, improving your gut health.
Sourdough bread is made by using a pre-culture of yeast (usually Saccharomyces Cerevisiae) that will ferment the flour to make bread (study)
The flavour of sourdough bread is more nutty and intense than normal white bread. The products of microbial fermentation intensify the flavour of the bread.
Compared to nutritional yeasts or baking powder, sourdough provides nutritional value to the bread, making it a much healthier option than white bread.
Soy has been fermented for ages. In Asian countries, soy is very abundant. In order to preserve soy from year to year, they fermented it to produce other products.
Soy sauce, tempeh, or tofu are fermented soy products (study). Although research is still on progress, the potential benefits of these fermented products are quite promising.
The fermentation of soy-derived products is mainly done by bacteria (Bacillus spp.) and fungi (Aspergillus spp. and Rhizopus spp.). Through the process of fermentation, the soy-derived products improve their nutritional value, and other bioactive compounds are formed (study). These will contribute to your gut health.
The gut microbiota refers to all microorganisms living in your gut. It plays a central role in our health, and keeping it healthy is a goal to achieve.
Probiotics can help you improve your gut microbiota. In this post, the best foods to eat for your gut health. Fermented vegetables, dairy products, sourdough, or soy-derived products.