YMCA Winter 2020 | Page 13

A fibre recipe for gut health If you want to keep your gut ecosystem thriving, try to eat plenty of high fibre foods. We know that different fibres help in different ways, and the best advice is to eat a wide variety of nutritious whole foods from all food groups that naturally contain different types of fibre. Some of the key prebiotic fibre foods include: } Aromatic vegetables such as onions, garlic, leeks, celery and Jerusalem artichokes. These are high in a type of carbohydrate called inulin, which bacteria use to promote healthy colon cells and other health benefits. } Barley and oats are a rich source of the soluble fibre, beta-glucan. Beta-glucan acts as food for your good gut bacteria and helps lower cholesterol levels. } Starchy foods such as cooked potatoes, beans and lentils and green bananas are a great fuel source for gut bacteria. } Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir and yoghurt contain a good supply of healthy bacteria to add to your microbiome. TWO WEEKS IS ENOUGH TO MAKE CHANGES TO THE MICROBE POPULATION THAT CAN ALTER OUR RISK OF DISEASE. What does current research tell us about diet and gut health? While scientists have yet to work out what the ‘perfect’ diet is for gut health, we know that the worst way of eating for your digestive health is having a diet with too many highly processed foods, too much sugar and not enough fibre. The good news is that a shift to a healthier diet can change the bacteria mix in as little as a few days. A research study involving African Americans, who swapped a meat-heavy, highly processed diet for a diet of African foods rich in beans and vegetables, saw a positive change in gut microbes within just two weeks. The reverse swap saw that when Africans switched to a typical American diet, their microbe profile was more in line with a higher risk of colon cancer. Two weeks is a short time, but long enough to make changes to the microbe population that can alter our risk of disease. Start making simple dietary changes today, and your gut microbes will thank you tomorrow. You may like to treat it as a ‘gut health challenge’ to start with, but know that the health benefits remain as long as you stick to better food choices. To do this, approach your diet as a long-term game where you make small changes and healthy food swaps over many weeks to months, to make the changes sustainable. Something as simple as eating two pieces of fruit each day and choosing wholegrain foods over more refined grains, is a great way to start. Then, look at adding in more prebiotic foods, experimenting with fermented foods and working legumes into your everyday meals. Before you know it, your insides will be in better shape than ever. FEATURE ARTICLE WINTER 2020 YMCA HEALTHY LIVING MAGAZINE 13