Calling On The Experts: Elise Compston, RD, LD Shares How to Improve Gut Health Through Daily Food Choices
We're pleased to welcome Elise A. Compston, RD, LD as our guest author on the Rowdy blog this week! Elise is the founder of Straight Outta Compston Kitchen, which she co-runs with her husband Stephen (he's a registered dietitian, too!). The Compstons 100% jive with what Rowdy is all about: simplify healthy eating to make room for life's big adventures.
Elise has some fantastic insights about the connection between our Gut Microbiome and our health. Give it a read, and check out her personal blog for some additional yummy recipes. She's got a mean smart snacks line up!
The Gut Microbiome and Your Health
By: Elise A. Compston, RD, LD
The body is filled with trillions of bacteria, the majority of which live in the intestines. These are known as the gut microbiota. Our overall health is greatly impacted by this microbiota and the food choices we make can positively improve the bacteria found there.
A healthier gut has been associated with reduced inflammation, improved immune function, and decreased risk of heart disease and cancer. While so much is still being learned about the role of gut microbiota and our health, it’s no question that supporting a healthy gut is an important piece of the puzzle.
Today, we’re covering 5 simple ways to improve gut bacteria through our daily food choices. As you’ll see, when we opt for less processed, varied and colorful, whole foods, we often check off multiple boxes at once!
- Pick probiotic-rich foods – a buzzword for many years, “probiotics” are the helpful bacteria found in fermented foods like sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, kombucha, kimchi, kefir, and certain yogurts. Probiotics enhance gut function by promoting balance between the “good”/”bad” bacteria, supporting a healthy immune system, and may even aid with weight loss.
- Include prebiotics too! – not to be confused with probiotics, prebiotics are the non-digestible fibers and particles that serve as fuel for probiotics. These prebiotics are broken down by gut bacteria and promote the growth of healthful bacteria in the gut. Food sources of prebiotics include: Jerusalem artichokes, chicory root, yacon root, leeks, garlic, onions, asparagus, whole wheat, bananas, spinach, beans, oats, and soybeans.
- Fill up on fiber – fiber found in foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds help move food regularly throughout the digestive tract. Fiber is broken down by microbiota in the large intestine and promotes the growth of healthy bacteria.
- Limit Artificial Sweeteners - some emerging studies indicate that artificial sweeteners may alter the gut microbiota negatively, as well as impairing insulin response and potentially increasing blood sugar. Until more is understood about the role of artificial sweeteners and gut health, opting for less processed, natural sugars like yacon root may be more beneficial for supporting a healthy gut.
- Polyphenols – polyphenols are powerful plant compounds with antioxidant-like properties that can decrease inflammation, fight oxidative stress, and support disease prevention. Polyphenols are primarily broken down and absorbed in the large intestine, serving similarly as prebiotics, helping proliferate good bacteria. Food sources of polyphenols include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and plant based oils but cocoa, dark chocolate, tea, blueberries, broccoli, almonds, onions, and red wine are particularly good sources.