- Nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert shares the six foods that can improve gut health
- Improving digestion can stop weight gain and help signs of ageing
- But stress, alcohol and poor gut health can lead to obesity, depression and IBS
Gut health is the wellness buzz phrase of the moment, as more and more of us look for ways to improve our digestion.
Looking after our gut is said to reduce fat storage and signs of ageing, and help boost our immune system, skin and brain health.
Harley Street nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert
While yoghurt is probably the best-known probiotic food in the Western diet, kefir is often a better source of this ‘good’ bacteria.
Kefir contains several major strains of friendly bacteria and yeast, making it one of the most diverse and potent probiotics available.
Eating yoghurt has been associated with numerous health benefits, including improved bone health and keeping you fuller for longer.
Yoghurt may also be better than milk for people with lactose intolerance as some of the bacteria turn some of the lactose into lactic acid. This is also why yoghurt is sour tasting.
Always read the label though, as not all yoghurt has live bacteria and some brands tend to include a significant amount of sugar in the products, with such processing often destroying any live bacteria.
WHAT IS ‘GUT HEALTH’?
We all have trillions of different microbes in our guts. The latest thinking is that this microscopic community, known as the microbiome, acts like an organ in the body, performing various vital functions.
A healthy, balanced microbiome helps us break down foods, protects us from infection, trains our immune system and manufactures vitamins, such as K and B12.
It also plays a role in regulating blood sugar and metabolism, and sends signals to our brain that can affect mood, anxiety and appetite.
A bad diet, stress, alcohol and lack of sleep can upset your microbiome, creating imbalances that are increasingly being linked to conditions ranging from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) to diabetes, high blood pressure, depression and obesity.
Natoo beans – fermented soy beans – are popular in Japan, where they are eaten as breakfast
These are fermented soy beans, popular in Japanese cuisine. The beans won’t appeal to everyone as they have quite a distinctive flavour, but they are high in fibre, protein and a bacterial strain which gives them their characteristically stringy consistency.
A study in older Japanese men found that that consuming natto beans on a regular basis was associated with higher bone mineral density. This is attributed to their richness in vitamin K2.
This is shredded cabbage that has been fermented with lactic acid, and it’s very popular in continental Europe.
In addition to its probiotic qualities, sauerkraut is rich in fibre, as well as vitamins C, B and K. It is also high in sodium and contains iron and manganese.
Do be wary though of processed varieties, and opt for unpasteurised versions instead. The pasteurisation kills the live and active bacteria.
Miso is used to make the famous Japanese soup which is made using a Japanese stock called dashi into which softened miso paste is added
Traditionally made by fermenting soybeans with salt and a type of fungus called koji. It is often used in traditional Japanese dishes and the famous miso soup.
Miso is a good source of protein and fibre. It is also high in various vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, including vitamin K, manganese and copper.
Many brands of miso are heavily processed so opt for natural varieties.
This is a fermented, spicy Korean side dish often made of cabbage.
Kimchi contains lactic acid bacteria that benefits digestive health. It is high in vitamins K, B2 and iron.
Kefir is the latest trendy wellness drink that is high in nutrients and probiotics, and is incredibly beneficial for digestion and gut health
This is a trendy fermented probiotic milk drink, and it is far superior to the typical friendly bacteria-branded drinks, which are often laden with added sugar.
Kefir is made by adding kefir grains to cow’s or goat’s milk, which are cultures of lactic acid bacteria and yeast – not to be confused with cereal grains.