Gutsy tips on shopping for a healthy gut
by Gutsy Flora
Is it a coincidence that as the number of low-fibre convenience foods in our supermarkets has grown, the diversity of microbes living in our gut has shrunk?
So how do we know how to shop for a healthy gut without blowing our wallets?
Despite what you may think, shopping for a healthy gut does not mean you need to stock up on outrageously expensive “superfoods”, or stress over whether activated buckwheat is a better choice than red quinoa. Here at Gutsy we like talking about every day foods that we all know and love, and with any extra gut happy add-ons like kefir, miso and kimchi as a delicious bonus.
Before we even get started here, let me just add in that we are all different. While there is no one size fits all, there are some general tips and tricks that should suit most. This is your cheat shopping guide to keeping it simple, so that you don’t end up wasting your money or stressing too much on your gut health journey.
To best ensure your gut microbiota is well fed, it’s great to eat a variety of prebiotic fibre found in wholegrains, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, and legumes. There are lots of different types of fibre present in a wide variety food, that all act together as fertilizer for your gut microbiota. The greater diversity of fibre-containing foods the happier and more varied your gut microbiota are likely to be. Changing up your shopping list will not only expose you to a variety of crucial nutrients and natural prebiotics, but your gut will thank you for the diversity. Try to aim for around 30 different types of food each week, and if you can manage more that’s great.
Stick to types of ferments you know you can incorporate into meals you already love
I’m a big fan of sticking to British and seasonal produce, I always felt that eating a kiwi fruit in July when we have strawberries and blueberries is a bit bonkers. Fresh produce that has been picked closer to ripeness tends to have an increased nutrient profile. Some of these nutrients are called polyphenols, anti-oxidants that are responsible for the bright colours in fruits and vegetables. These polyphenols can also act like prebiotic fibre by feeding the microbiota in the gut. Choosing local if you can, can also support regional businesses and small producers, and will ultimately help to maintain sustainable farming here in the UK.
The key conversations I have in my head while I shop are 1. Microbial diversity, 2. Nutrient density, 3. Conscious of local produce (if you can!). I just figure out what works for my lifestyle and what I know my body agrees with. And adding in any treats for the soul on-top – none of us can or should be gut purists.
THE EXTRAS : FERMENTED PRODUCTS
With really limited research currently available on the benefits of fermented foods in humans (come on scientists, we need you!), we can’t as yet confidently say that fermented foods are the bees knees for our gut microbiome. We do know though that homemade fermented foods, like kefir, kimchi and kombucha tend to contain more happy bacteria that are good for our guts than the shop bought versions. Making ferments from scratch can be time-consuming and annoying, especially if it’s only for one. Our Gutsy team is rife with stories of overwhelm from never-ending kefir, or trying to get through a mammoth jar of kraut at each meal. We have learnt from experience, that the key when buying ferments is to A. Stick to types of ferments you know you can incorporate into meals you already love, and B. Keep the quantities small. If you are going to buy ferments, we also advise to choose traditionally fermented as these haven’t been ‘stabilised’ by a mild pasteurisation after the fermentation process. This pasteurisation kills off a lot of the good bacteria, but does make them more stable for manufactures). If you’d like some suggestions for good ferments, have a look at our favourites in our Gutsy Shop, or have a go yourself with our 101 how to ferment guide. As a rule, remember that these are living foods, so always keeping an eye out for signs of “life” is important, big pockets of holes in your sourdough, or a fizzy bottle of kombucha. Fermented foods truly are alive.
While the science catches up I’d just crack on with choosing what you feel makes most sense to you; eating the ferments you enjoy and can afford.
Although there’s been a lot of research on probiotics, there is still a lot to be learned. Some probiotics have been shown to prevent or treat diarrhoea, and they may help some people with their irritable bowel syndrome symptoms. However, these benefits can vary from person to person, and there still isn’t much conclusive evidence yet. The effective dose of various probiotic strains is measured in colony-forming units (CFUs), and some experts suggest aiming for 1 billion or more CFUs per serving to reap their benefits. Even when numbers of CFUs are included on the label, there are no labelling standards to ensure what’s listed is indeed in the product, so it’s hard to say if they live up to their hype.
Remember, each and every one of us is unique and complex. Head to our help pages if you want to be connected with a health professional to help you.
A really good guide for choosing probiotics is the US Clinical Guide to Probiotic Products.
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Chef and Health Consultant Gutsy Flora is on a mission to absorb and share everything she loves about Gut Health. A topic she is desperately trying to keep up with and is dedicated to the cause of translating information for the Gutsy readers. Her expertise are in fermenting and supporting people to lead a holistic lifestyle. Her favourite topics of interest are the gut-brain-axis and whole foods relating to the gut microbiome. Flora works with private clients to inspire and guide them in making truly sustainable adjustments towards a healthier balance that suite their lifestyle.
Written by © Flora Montgomery. All rights reserved.